The trial of Stephen Morgan, the man charged with the May 2009 killing of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, began Wednesday in the state court in Middletown, mere blocks away from Red & Black Café, where the fatal shooting occurred. Morgan, 32, is being charged with first-degree murder, intimidation due to bias, and carrying a pistol without a permit. Morgan has pleaded not guilty to all three charges and is pursuing an insanity defense. In October, the defense opted for a trial by a three-judge panelrather than by jury. Judge Susan Handy is heading the panel alongside Judges Julia Aurigemma and James Bentivegna. If the judges accept his insanity defense and he is found guilty of murder, Morgan could be committed to the state psychiatric hospital for criminals. If he is found guilty of murder but his insanity defense is not accepted, Morgan would face up to 60 years in prison, according to the Associated Press. The first day of the trial included appearances by students Susan Gerhardt ’09 and Barry Finder ’09, and Red & Black employee Amy Tosto, who provided eye-witness testimony of the shooting. K-9 handler Michael D’Aresta and Detective Daniel Cargill also testified about the handgun found at the scene, which was subsequently submitted as evidence. The trial continued on Thursday with testimony from detectives and forensic scientists, who identified DNA evidence and explained the handling of physical evidence at the scene and
in the lab, according to the Associated Press. Detective William Mueano, an employee for the Follett Higher Education Group Joseph McGowan, and forensic science examiner Lucinda Phelan offered testimony, and the state presented video and photographic evidence from the café at the time of the shooting. Additionally, SWAT officers Derek Puorro and Chris Lavoie described arriving at the scene. President Michael Roth was present at the trial on Thursday afternoon. “The brutal murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich was a shock to the Wesleyan and Middletown communities,” Roth said. “Our thoughts go out to Johanna’s family and friends at this especially difficult time.” As the trial continues through Dec. 14, Morgan’s mental state will be assessed, according to the details of his psychiatric evaluations and testimony from a psychiatrist.