The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Therapist stresses rehabilitation

 

February 13, 2019

David Grieder

Jouett's tears were among many during victim impact statements in the first day of his sentencing hearing.

CLOVIS - Emphasizing his client's potential for rehabilitation and the circumstances preceding the deadly library shooting for which he was convicted last year, defense attorney Stephen Taylor asked the judge Tuesday morning that Nathaniel Jouett only serve 20 years of his forthcoming sentence in prison.

Taylor's recommendation came on the second day of a sentencing hearing this week, following the state's request Monday that 5th Judicial District Judge James Hudson give Jouett, now 18, 96 years in prison. Hudson has discretion up to two life terms plus 96 years for the Aug. 28, 2017 shooting deaths of two Clovis-Carver public library employees, injury to four other people and terror to dozens of others.

Jouett pleaded guilty late last year to the 30 felony charges ensuing from the incident, and the therapist seeing him in custody since April said that was in large part because he did not want to put the victims and the community through the ordeal of a month-long trial, which had previously been scheduled for next month in Roswell.

"Since the day I met Nathaniel, he's never, ever even made an excuse for what happened," said Chris Tokarski, executive director of the local non-profit Mental Health Resources. Tokarski diagnosed Jouett with PTSD, major depression and anxiety going back to childhood abuse. Much of the past several months in treatment have been dedicated not only to diagnosis but also in helping Jouett to process the violence he perpetrated almost a year and a half ago.

"I don't think he's really grasped the magnitude of what he's done," he said. "I think when he's 25 he's going to have a different understanding..."

Tokarski discussed Jouett's initial difficulty even in viewing the library surveillance video from when he opened fire, as also recognized Monday by the state's expert witness.

"Seeing himself on those videos ... it brought a level of reality to him," he said. "There's pieces of the puzzle that are missing for him ... to fully understand the meaning and depths of those actions is something I think he's still working on."

Child and adolescent psychiatrist George Davis expanded on that, speaking to developmental trauma tracing to Jouett's early childhood in Texas and its manifestations into his teenage years.

Davis first met with Jouett just days after the shooting, he said, observing "almost an eerie distance, or calmness" to the then-16 year old.

"He was anxious, he was depressed and almost disoriented by the events that had led up to the past week," said Davis, describing a "profound, persistent three-day experience of dissociation" for Jouett in the weekend between his suspension Friday from Clovis High School and the shooting Monday at the library.

"What he experiences at that (time) was this fragmentary and intermittent memory," he continued, or in Jouett's own words to the doctor, "time was skipping."

Davis's testimony lends some perspective to police accounts from interviews with Jouett immediately after the shooting, during which he offers little substantive explanation for his actions. A cell-phone video he filmed before the incident, in which he states his intention to commit violence, was itself reflective of the teenager's dissociative condition, Davis said.

"It's the most ineffective manifesto one can imagine, if that's what it's supposed to be," he says. "It's too confused."

Indeed, on that video Jouett proclaims he would probably walk to the high school, maybe stop at a gas station first. The most concrete explanation he gave anyone for settling at the library instead was that had to use the bathroom, Tokarski said.

Davis also spoke to the "brutality and casual violence" of Jouett's years living with his biological mother and her boyfriends up to the age of four. He referred to CPS records from Texas, when at merely 18 months old Jouett and his half-siblings were reportedly "found dirty and unsupervised, wandering around the neighborhood asking for food."

Kerry Ennis opened the morning testimony speaking to her memories of Jouett as "very shy, very withdrawn, very sad" when she had him as a second-grade student at Highland Elementary, a few years after he was reunited with his father in Clovis.

"Nathaniel was very special. It doesn't take away from what he's done by any means," she said, and then she addressed Jouett directly from the stand. "No excuse for what you did ... You made a horrible, horrible choice."

Testimony continued Tuesday afternoon, with state cross examination of Davis and testimony from Jouett's family members.

 
 

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