A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday rejected the insanity defense of 32-year-old parolee Michael Wood and convicted him of first-degree murder in the slaying two years ago of a man he met in a liquor store.
The verdict is the latest in Wood's long experience with the criminal justice system. He has at times been found both sane and insane after violent crimes and has shuttled back and forth between Lorton Reformatory and St. Elizabeths Hospital because officials have disagreed on his mental condition.
According to prosecutor Barry M. Tapp, who handled the most recent case, Wood is simply a "nasty person" who "would do whatever he had to do get what he wanted" and who has been faking mental illness for years in attempts to avoid prosecution for various crimes.
Wood's attorney, Robert Pleshaw, argued that Wood was a diagnosed schizophrenic who was driven by inner voices to commit violent acts. In addition, a defense psychiatrist said that Wood suffered from a "Superman complex" when he shot to death John R. Bowman after the two left a Southeast liquor store on June 2, 1979.
Wood was convicted after a two-stage trial in which the jury found last week that Wood had shot Bowman, and yesterday decided that he was sane at the time of the slaying.
According to medical records introduced in court and allegations by Tapp, Wood in 1970 was charged with robbery and assault with a deadly weapon and committed to St. Elizabeths after a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity. A year later he escaped from the facility and was charged with robbing two convenience stores. In February 1972 he robbed a nursing assistant at the hospital and escaped again, jurors were told.
In April 1972, according to Tapp and government records, St. Elizabeths psychiatrists found that Wood had no mental disorder and, after being convicted of robbery, he was sent to Lorton Reformatory. Within two years, prison authorities obtained a court order returning him to St. Elizabeths because they said he had a mental problem and was causing disturbances. In August 1976, hospital officials once again sent him to Lorton, saying Wood was not mentally disturbed, but simply possessed an aggressive personality.
Wood soon escaped from Lorton, and was convicted of that escape in December 1976. In November 1978 he was released on parole. Bowman, a former maintenance worker for C&P Telephone Co., was killed six months later.
Wood followed Bowman from the liquor store onto a residential street a few blocks from Bowman's house, Tapp said in court. Wood shot Bowman in the chest with a revolver and then fled, the prosecutor said.
Wood faces life imprisonment. Judge George H. Revercomb set sentencing on Jan. 21.