Jury still out in knife assault case

ESCANABA – Following four days of testimony, a jury went into deliberation Friday to determine the fate of an Escanaba man accused of assault with intent to murder for allegedly threatening a police officer with a knife last January.

The defendant, Joshua Jacob Curtis, 33, was among those who took the stand this week answering questions from his lawyer, John M. Bergman, and Prosecuting Attorney Steve Parks.

In addition to the life felony assault charge, Curtis is also charged with one count of assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer, a two-year felony, for allegedly resisting arrest by another police officer during a separate incident at Bay College on Jan. 9.

Curtis allegedly assaulted Escanaba Public Safety Officer Sgt. Jamie Silverstone, who was investigating a harassment incident involving the defendant.

Curtis is charged with assault with intent to murder for allegedly using a knife with intent to kill Escanaba Public Safety Lt. Rob LaMarche, who was among police investigating a domestic situation at Curtis’s residence on Jan. 10.

Three officers responded to a domestic incident at Curtis’ residence at 1401 N. 23rd St., Lot 61, where he had allegedly barricaded himself in his medical marijuana “grow room.” When officers entered the room, he allegedly came after LaMarche with a knife. An officer shocked him with an electronic current and he was apprehended.

Ever since then, Curtis has been lodged in the county jail in lieu of a $250,000 cash bond.

Witnesses who took the stand during the four-day trial included Curtis’ wife and his mother, Escanaba Public Safety officers, Delta County Sheriff’s Department deputies, Curtis’ physician, two psychologists, a mental health professional, and three students – including one he allegedly threatened to kill.

Jurors have four choices for a verdict on each of the two charges. They can decide if the defendant is guilty, guilty but mentally ill, not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity.

Earlier this year, Curtis underwent a forensic examination and was found competent to stand trial.

Testimony revealed that after the first incident at Bay College where he threatened to kill a student he didn’t know, Curtis threatened to kill LaMarche in the police vehicle and again at the jail.

Jail video showed while in his cell, Curtis took off all his clothes and put them in the toilet, flooding the cell. He also had a colostemy bag and smeared the contents in the cell.

According to witness testimony, after being released from jail the next day, Curtis went home and trashed his residence. He went for a walk and his wife called 9-1-1. Curtis had returned home before police announced at the door that they were there.

Testimony said Curtis went into the “grow room” and had a stereo on high volume, sounding police sirens, gunshots, and helicopters. LaMarche was unable to push the door open. On the his second try, the door flung open at the same time heavy metal music played.

At that point, Curtis is accused of coming after LaMarche with a knife that Curtis later said he was using for cutting string to tie up his marijuana plants.

According to Parks, Curtis was not legally insane and should be declared guilty as charged. He said it is the defense’s responsibility to prove insanity. There is a lack of evidence to prove Curtis was legally insane, added Parks.

“Any condition that he had… was not because of his mental illness but because of illegal drugs and smoking dope. That’s what it was,” commented the prosecuting attorney.

Parks added, “Curtis did not accept responsibility for what he did and was not delusional.”

Bergman, the defense attorney, told the jury it is the prosecution’s responsibility to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bergman reminded the jury about what is known about Curtis: he had a traumatic brain injury in a 2008 accident that killed his son; he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder in 2009; and Curtis was prescribed medications, drank alcohol, and smoked marijuana. Testimony also revealed Curtis heard voices and was delusional, added Bergman.

“The defendant wants you to find him not guilty on reason of insanity on both counts,” Bergman told the jury.

Earlier, Parks had noted, “His brian injury condition makes him a sympathetic figure but it doesn’t excuse what he did because he’s not mentally ill or insane.”

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net