Defense rests in Durham 'sleepwalking' murder trial

DURHAM (WTVD) -- A Durham jury is one step closer to deciding the fate of a father who claims he was sleepwalking when he attacked his three children, killing the youngest.

Defense attorneys for Joseph Mitchell rested their case Friday in the eighth day of testimony.

In addition to the defendant, defense attorneys would call only one other witness to support Mitchell's claims he has no memory of the tragic night he took the life of his 4-year-old son Blake.

"I believe he was in an altered state of consciousness," said Dr. George Corvin, a forensic psychiatrist.

The expert witness endured several hours of testimony and repeated direct and cross examination questions from both the defense and the state.

Prosecutors contend Mitchell was aware of his actions that night and planned to kill his three children. The state plans to call its own expert witness during the rebuttal phase.

During cross examination, Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols suggested Mitchell acted in anger. The defense witness denied that, emphasizing that Mitchell's actions were during an unconscious state.

"It's fear, not anger," Corvin told the jury.

Under cross examination Wednesday, prosecutors took aim at Mitchell's credibility, highlighting lies he told his friends and family about his past. Mitchell claimed he attended the University of Hawaii and played collegiate sports there.

He admitted he made up the story for his wife because he was ashamed of his parents who abandoned him and his siblings.

"I tried to shield her from my past so that we could have a great future," Mitchell said.

Prosecutors revealed Mitchell also lied to the public and potential employers by posting his bogus education on his LinkedIn profile.

Mitchell also testified about the apprehension he felt about the birth of his third child. He said he worried about financial stability but later became excited about Blake's birth by offering to deliver the baby.

Mitchell, 50, is charged with first degree murder in the death of his youngest son Blake in September 2010. He's also accused of attempted murder for attacking his oldest son and daughter who were 10 and 13 at the time.

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