SAN FRANCISCO – A woman accused of killing her three young sons by tossing them into the San Francisco Bay has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and believes her children are growing up in heaven, according to psychiatric evaluations.
Lashuan Harris, 23, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court. She now must be evaluated by two court-appointed mental health professionals. Those reports are due Oct. 18; Harris' trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 27.
At least one psychiatrist hired by her public defender already has concluded Harris was legally insane at the time of the crime and "did not understand the moral wrongfulness of her actions," according to excerpts from a report by Dr. Jeff Gould obtained by The Associated Press. Gould spent about six hours with Harris during several visits, most recently on Sept 1.
Harris, who is being held in a psychiatric wing at San Francisco County Jail, continues to exhibit signs of mental illness — laughing, talking, smiling to herself, rocking back and forth, according to Gould's report and her lawyer, Teresa Caffese.
While she knew people would criticize her or might try to stop her from tossing her children into the chilly water, she believed she had to do it because God commanded her, Gould said.
Harris told police and a psychiatrist after the Oct. 19, 2005, drownings that God told her to sacrifice her children — Treyshun Harris, 6, Taronta Greeley Jr., 2, and Joshoa Greeley, 16 months.
Prosecutors decided in June not to seek the death penalty against Harris.
"This woman committed a homicide — there's no question there," said Linda Klee, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco district attorney's office. "The question here is whether she spends her life in prison or in a hospital. That's up to a court and a jury."
In her videotaped confession to police, Harris described how she struggled with two of her boys as she stripped them and plunged them from Pier 7 in an area where tourists stroll along the waterfront. Her youngest boy laughed, thinking it was a game.
One of the bodies was recovered, but the others were never found.
Caffese said Thursday she wants her client to get the treatment she needs.
"Freedom is not in the foreseeable future," Caffese said. "We need to get her to a hospital, and that needs to happen now."