Father accused of suffocating his son takes stand in Durham courtroom

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Accused killer Joseph Mitchell told a jury it's hard to accept his 4-year old son is dead because he has no recollection of the night he attacked him.

"To me he is still here," said Mitchell while choking back tears. "I know I would never harm my children."

It would be the first of many admissions as Mitchell took the stand in his own defense Wednesday.

He claims he was in an unconscious state similar to sleepwalking when he attacked his children in September 2010.

Mitchell is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his youngest son Blake.

He's also accused of attempted murder for attacking his oldest son and daughter who were 10 and 13 at the time.

While Mitchell admits to killing his son, he says the last thing he remembers that ill-fated night was going to sleep. He told the jury he has no recollection of the incident and only came to consciousness when he was in the hospital.

He denies any recollection of undergoing surgery for three self-inflicted stab wounds or talking to hospital psychiatrists after he was admitted.

Both Mitchell and his ex-wife told investigators he struggled with severe sleep deprivation leading up to the murder.

Under cross examination, 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 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.

When asked whether he still loved his wife and children, Mitchell cried on the stand. He offered a tearful response when specifically asked about his son Blake.

"I love my son," cried Mitchell, adding that all he ever wanted was to have children.

A forensic psychiatrist testified Wednesday that the murder of 4-year-old boy at the hands of his father was "bizarre."

"What in the world was going on with Joseph Mitchell during this tragic outburst of violence," asked Dr. George Corvin, the expert witness for the defense. "This was a very confusing situation."

Corvin told the jury he focused on why Mitchell acted out and found that he did not intentionally harm his children.

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