Thursday, August 15, 2002

Insanity plea made in killing

But defendant says that's not her intention

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The court-appointed attorney for a woman accused of murder in the July slaying of a Miami University professor filed a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea Wednesday over the defendant's objections.

        “I don't want that (insanity plea) on the record, thanks,” Tonda Lynn Ansley told Butler County Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth on Wednesday.

        Ms. Ansley continues to insist on representing herself while charged with aggravated murder in the death of Sherry Lee Corbett, said her attorney, Melynda Cook-Reich.

        But Judge Spaeth said that, by mutual agreement among lawyers in the case, the Butler County Forensic Center would perform mental evaluations on the 36-year-old Ms. Ansley to determine whether she is competent to stand trial and if psychological findings support an insanity plea.

        He set a hearing for Sept. 4 on the mental health issues and on her repeated requests that she be allowed to represent herself without a lawyer.

        Judge Spaeth repeatedly told Ms. Ansley that he wanted her to more carefully consider the strategy of self-representation.

        “It's ill-advised,” the judge said. “It's not a good idea.”

        Ms. Ansley's adamant stance “causes me concern as to whether or not you're thinking clearly, Ma'am,” Judge Spaeth said, gesturing toward his head.

        Ms. Ansley twice tried to interrupt Judge Spaeth. He advised her: “I don't want you to speak. I want you to listen.”

        Judge Spaeth suggested that Ms. Ansley read some books and consult people she trusts to further understand the implications of representing herself in such a serious case.

        Ms. Ansley faces 23 years to life if convicted of aggravated murder with a gun specification.

        Ms. Corbett, 55, was shot in broad daylight July 27 in the city's Dayton Lane historic district where both women lived. Ms. Corbett had been Ms. Ansley's landlord. Neighbors had said they were unaware of any landlord-tenant dispute between the women.

        Authorities have not outlined a possible motive in the case, but sources who spoke on condition of anonymity have cited a bizarre, unspecified connection to the 1999 movie The Matrix. The science-fiction film, acclaimed for its impressive special effects, suggests reality may not be as it appears.


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