Mom Who Left Boy by Road Not Guilty Due to Insanity

Channoah A. Green has lost custody of her son, Noah.
Channoah A. Green has lost custody of her son, Noah. (Wrc-tv)
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 15, 2006

A woman who left her 4-year-old son alone by the side of the Capital Beltway last year was found not guilty by reason of insanity yesterday and allowed to remain free.

The verdict by a Fairfax County jury came in the second trial of Channoah A. Green, 23, on a charge of felony child neglect. The first jury, which heard the case in April, could not reach a verdict.

Although most defendants who successfully argue insanity are taken to a state mental hospital, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Marcus D. Williams allowed Green to leave the courtroom. She remains free on bond.

Fairfax Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said he had never seen an instance of an insanity defendant being released immediately after a verdict. The law indicates that such defendants should be turned over to the state mental health department. Morrogh said prosecutors were reviewing their options.

Green, weeping happily, declined to comment after the verdict. Jurors could not be located for comment.

Even though Green is cleared of criminal charges, she has lost custody of her son. While the criminal case was pending, civil custody proceedings in Fairfax found her unfit to parent, and the boy was placed with an aunt and uncle in New Jersey, Green's attorney said.

The incident occurred near Lee Highway on the shoulder of the Beltway about 10 p.m. July 26, 2005. Green dumped her son, Noah, and brushed him with her car as she drove off. Other motorists quickly rescued the boy. Green crashed her 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer about 90 minutes later on Interstate 95 north of Richmond.

Deputy Public Defender William R. Edwards wove a larger picture for the jury of nine men and three women. He showed how Green had begun that weekend hoping to attend a family reunion and wound up three days later without sleep, money or food, thinking that someone would at least help her son if she let him out of the car.

Green was a single mother who moved to Newport News, Va., with her son in 2004. In mid-July 2005, her family persuaded her to attend a family reunion in Pittsburgh, where she had hoped to reconcile with her father, Edwards said. She spent a sleepless night driving to Pennsylvania with Noah, Edwards said.

After a day of family functions, Green spent a second sleepless night in a friend's apartment. When she reunited with her father, Edwards said, he renounced her for being a single mother and ordered her out of the family function. Green spent that night in her car in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Green turned up at a hospital outside of Pittsburgh with her son, and a social worker's notes indicated that she was hallucinating. She then drove toward her grandmother's home in Fort Washington, Edwards said, but got lost. She said she had only hazy recollections of letting her son out of the car.

Meredith Cary, a psychiatrist who examined Green for the prosecution, said Green suffered from delirium and had depressive disorder. Michael Hendricks, a psychologist who examined her for the defense, said she had suffered a brief psychotic episode.

The jury deliberated for more than seven hours over two days.

"The experts gave their opinions, but our desire all along was to let the community make a decision," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Marc J. Birnbaum. "And that's what happened today."

Williams told Green she was free to go. Birnbaum pointed out that Virginia law requires that a person found not guilty by reason of insanity be placed "in temporary custody of the Commissioner of Mental Health . . . for evaluation." The judge said he would review the law.

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