The man accused of attacking a Chinese exchange student with a hatchet will be committed to a state hospital as soon as possible.
How long 61-year-old Nashville resident Dana Ericson will stay there is uncertain.
By ruling in favor of commitment on Oct. 4, Brown Circuit Judge Judith Stewart was saying that Ericson is a danger to himself or others and/or gravely ill. In August, Ericson was found not responsible by reason of insanity in the attack.
A psychiatrist who has examined him several times, Dr. George Parker, testified that Ericson has schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and was actively psychotic at the time of the unprovoked attack in downtown Nashville on Feb. 18, 2015.
The victim, then-18-year-old Yue Zhang, was treated at Columbus Regional Hospital and released that evening for a wound close to her spine. She has suffered no long-term physical damage, but the attack had an effect on her psychologically, the prosecution said during Ericson’s trial in August.
It’s been a pattern for Ericson — who has been hospitalized before — to come back into competency while under commitment, be released and then deteriorate mentally, not taking his medication as directed, Parker testified. Even while on medication, that deterioration has occurred and Ericson has become violent, he testified.
He brought up a previously undiscussed case in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2005, in which Ericson was accused of attempting to throw a woman twice into traffic with no provocation and then walking away. Parker testified that that information came from a police report, and in that case, Ericson was not criminally charged but was committed to a mental health facility.
Ericson objected to that case being brought up, asked for factual evidence and accused multiple people of lying.
“It’s important to understand the past history of violence to predict the future risk of violence, and that’s essentially what a civil commitment, in part, entails: To determine whether a person with a mental disease represents a danger to himself or others,” Parker said about why he brought it up.
In a break from normal procedure, Ericson also was sworn in so that he could make a statement that he insisted was important for the court to hear. It went on for several minutes before the prosecution and Stewart objected and tried to redirect him back to the subject: What he thought about the state’s request to have him committed.
“I have shown no sign of violence or altercation under the greatest stress of my life,” he said. “I am no danger to my health or others. I pose a much greater danger to tyranny, especially the tyranny of the mind.”
Overall, he blamed “a vast right-wing conspiracy” and government mind control for what has happened to him.
He testified during his trial in August that he was trying to communicate with the Chinese government through Zhang and stop a nuclear war he believed was imminent.
“I’m just trying to do some good. My only desire is to do good. My pursuit of happiness is the joy of doing good,” he said Wednesday.
Ericson’s attorney — public defender Daniel Reuter, sitting in for attorney Jacob Moore — asked if the court would find it appropriate to send Ericson to a halfway house if and when he is released from the state hospital.
That next step wasn’t spelled out in Stewart’s ruling, but it stipulated that if Ericson is released, transferred or let outside the hospital without supervision, that the court and prosecution be notified as soon as possible. She told Ericson that she would put “whatever restrictions are necessary in place at the time of your discharge.”
“He clearly needs more structure than he has had in the past when he returns to the community,” Parker testified.
“The future is fraught with uncertainty for Mr. Ericson — Mr. Ericson more than most.”
Upon hearing the ruling, Ericson asked to be sent to Sweden instead of a state hospital to seek “healing, mental, spiritual and physical.” He called Sweden his homeland multiple times and insisted that he has “absolutely no affiliation with the evil Christian empire of America,” which he called “an international, corporate, capitalized conspiracy all hidden under the lie of democracy.”
“The whole thing I’ve yet to understand is why I’m this way. But why?” he asked, to no one in particular.
“That’s something, hopefully, they can work with you on, with treatment,” Stewart said.