Experts say insanity defense could cause shift in Orlando shooting spree trial



ORLANDO, Fla. - Jury selection began Monday for Jason Rodriguez, who is charged in a shooting spree that left one dead and several injured in downtown Orlando four years ago.

Rodriguez is accused of shooting and killing his former coworker, Otis Beckford, at the RS&H Building in 2009.

Attorneys argue Rodriguez suffered from paranoid schizophrenia the day he shot Beckford.

"Normally, the defense doesn't have to prove anything," said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer. "The burden is always on the state."

But Sheaffer said an insanity defense shifts that burden, and jury selection included a preview of how the trial could take shape.

"There's a possibility that the defense of insanity may be utilized in this case," said Circuit Court Judge Belvin Perry.

"We were able to seat a jury for Casey Anthony, George Zimmerman, and certainly we'll be able to seat a jury for Mr. Rodriguez," said Sheaffer.

Jury selection is expected to last a couple of days.

Several of Rodriguez's alleged victims who survived the shooting are expected to testify in the trial.

On the stand during a recent hearing, Rodriguez said he knew when he went into his former employer's building that it wouldn't be right to kill someone. Prosecutors said Rodriguez was fired from his job as a computer design technician at an architectural firm in 2007.

"On Nov. 6, 2009, did you believe it would be wrong to shoot people?" asked prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick.

"Yes," said Rodriguez.

Prosecutors said Rodriguez was fully aware of what he was doing when he allegedly shot and killed Beckford and injured others.

Rodriguez took the stand last week in a hearing to determine if he was competent to stand trial.

His defense team claims he is insane and has problems concentrating because a voice in his head, named Sharptooth, threatens him.

"Is Sharptooth real?" defense attorney Melissa Vickers asked Rodriguez in court.

"Yes," Rodriguez said.

"Is the brain hacking real?" asked Vickers.

"Yes," Rodriguez said.

Ultimately, Perry said the Rodriguez was capable of being tried.

Perry told those in the jury pool that prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, should Rodriguez be convicted.

Sheaffer said he doesn't expect Rodriguez to take the stand during his trial.

"We only saw a faint cross-examination. You didn't see the knockout cross-examination that will come before a jury," said Sheaffer.

When opening arguments begin, we will carry the trial live on

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