Inside Report: Compelling evidence of mother’s mental illness

Looking back at the testimony of two psychiatrists and a psychologist who evaluated Sabrina Maiden, it’s no wonder a state judge found the Zachary woman not guilty by reason of insanity last month in the April 2012 slaying of her infant son.

Maiden, they testified, considered the late pop artist Aaliyah a goddess and set up an altar to her in her home. The walls of the home were peppered with upside-down crosses.

There was a consensus among psychiatrists John Thompson and Jose Artecona and psychologist David Hale. They said in November that Maiden was psychotic and schizophrenic and didn’t know right from wrong the day 2-month-old Prince Javeion Deshaun Brown was found in an area of shallow water in a field near her East Mount Pleasant Road home.

“She was not in touch with reality that day. If she was not psychotic or out of touch with reality, the behavior would not likely have occurred,” said Thompson, chief of staff at the state hospital, during a Nov. 13 sanity hearing in District Judge Chip Moore’s courtroom.

“She could not distinguish right from wrong,” Hale added. “She may not have even been aware of what she was doing.”

Artecona testified he found no evidence that Maiden was malingering, or feigning her psychotic behavior.

“I thought her symptoms were very believable,” he stated. “They have maintained consistency over time. They have been noted by many, many different practitioners in a number of different settings. It’s not like she’s turning it on and turning it off.”

East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Steve Danielson asked Thompson during the sanity hearing if a “perfect storm” of circumstances contributed to Maiden’s psychotic break.

“I don’t think you could have a worse setup, basically,” Thompson replied. “She has this kind of cultural phenomenon that she’s in that’s very unusual. She just delivered a baby, and lots of moms have ambivalent feelings after they’ve delivered. She’s got a family history of the schizophrenia influencing her behavior. And certainly her marijuana use wasn’t helping either.

“I guess you could call it a perfect storm as far as all these factors influencing her mind and the way her mind was thinking at that time,” Thompson said.

Artecona testified Maiden felt her baby was going to die because she was making formula with water, and she believed the water was poisoned.

“She felt that she was being punished at the time because she wasn’t breast-feeding,” he said in response to a question from Maiden’s court-appointed attorney, Margaret Lagattuta. “She had this psychotic belief that because of her lack of breast-feeding, the baby was somehow damaged, and she thought she was being punished because of that as well. She experienced hallucinations telling her to kill the baby.”

Final autopsy results showed Javeion died from blunt-force trauma to the head. The child suffered a traumatic brain injury and also injuries to his limbs. The death was classified as a homicide. Maiden was booked on a first-degree murder count but later charged with manslaughter.

Maiden, 23, is now confined to the state hospital in Jackson. Thompson indicated he’s cautiously optimistic about her chances of recovery. While at the facility after her arrest, a medicated Maiden began to think more clearly after two or three months, he said.

“I think her prognosis is guarded at this point. We just have to see how she’s going to do going forward.”

Moore will review Maiden’s status every six months to determine whether she poses a danger to herself or others.

Joe Gyan Jr. covers courts for The Advocate. He can be reached at jgyan@theadvocate.com.