LEE COUNTY, Ala (WRBL) – The attorney for an Auburn teen accused of murdering his father’s future wife says if indicted his client will plead not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Prosecutors allege 16-year-old Ross McFarland intentionally killed 66-year-old Martha White back in October of 2019. Court documents indicate McFarland allegedly harbored animosity towards the victim for getting engaged to McFarland’s father soon after McFarland’s mother passed away.
Wednesday morning, McFarland waived his right to a preliminary hearing.McFarland’s attorney, Andrew Stanley, says his client was born a female but identifies as a male and has legally changed his name and birth certificate.
“I waived the preliminary hearing this morning. We didn’t feel like it was needed in the case, and we will proceed with a mental evaluation of Mr. McFarland. He has not been indicted yet, so he has not entered a not guilty plea, but I expect if he is indicted, we will plead him not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect,” shared Stanley.
According to Alabama Criminal Code: The plea is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for any crime that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense. ”Severe mental disease or defect” does not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct. The defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanity by clear and convincing evidence.
McFarland remains behind bars at the Lee County Detention Facility on a no bond. District Attorney Brandon Hughes says requesting and receiving a no bond in a non-capital case was an extraordinary step done so for the safety of the public. Hugues refers to the defendant as a female, because McFarland is being housed as a female at the Lee County Detention Facility.
“We felt like the public was at risk based on the statements she (McFarland) made to police. We presented that to a judge. Thank goodness the judge agreed with our position and had her (McFarland) held without bond based on evidence. It was primarily for public safety interest,” said Hughes.
Hughes declined to share precisely what McFarland allegedly told police after the teen’s arrest that led to an unusual measure of no bond in a non-capital case.
White was found dead inside the McFarland family home along Burke Place in Auburn back in October. Hughes says a witness, later identified as a friend of McFarland, saw the teen shoot, White, when the victim turned her head. The witness told police after the shooting McFarland picked up the shell casing, and they left the scene.
McFarland was arrested a day after the shooting in Tallapoosa County, where police seized a weapon believed to have been used in the murder.
The case could go before a Lee County Grand Jury as soon as next week. News 3 will keep you updated on the proceedings.