Judge orders release of Austin Harrouff interview tapes

A judge in Martin County, Florida, decided Friday that additional recordings of a hospital-bed interview between Austin Harrouff and TV's Dr. Phil McGraw will be released to the public.

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Judge Lawrence Mirman said the videos are “highly relevant” to the case, adding that the production company that brought the motion to the court can add a watermark to the videos upon release.

“This is not a case involving questions regarding the identity of the perpetrator. It is obvious that the question of criminal culpability will involve complicated questions relating to the mental state of the defendant at the time of the alleged crimes,” he wrote in his ruling. “It is obvious that this case’s resolution will depend upon expert testimony.”

The videos are expected to be released next week.

Harrouff, 20, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the Aug. 15, 2016, fatal attacks on John Stevens III and his wife, Michelle Mishcon, at their home on Southeast Kokomo Lane near the Palm Beach County border. Harrouff is also accused of trying to kill their neighbor, Jeff Fisher.

The story made international headlines after law-enforcement officers said they found Harrouff on top of Stevens, biting his face. He later told authorities that he “did something bad” and “ate humans.”

The court hearing comes after attorneys representing the production company for CBS's "Dr. Phil" show, Peteski Productions, said they were subpoenaed by the state to release any additional recordings of Harrouff, who grew up in Jupiter, attended Suncoast High and was present for Friday's hearing. In the original interview released by "Dr. Phil," Harrouff said he was sorry for what he is accused of, but that he didn't remember much of it.

“I didn’t know if it was reality or a dream. It’s like waking up from a nightmare,” Harrouff told McGraw.

In a motion they filed this month, the attorneys argued additional recordings should be protected under the shield law — also known as journalist privilege. If the recordings are released, the attorneys asked that they be released with a watermark to retain copyright.

Charles Babcock, the attorney representing CBS, said Friday they’re fighting to keep the recordings out of the evidence because they are outtakes and notes — nothing published. As far as what those videos contain, he said Harrouff is not in view and it’s only his voice, but he did not go into detail as far as what is in those recordings.

The state has argued the video is part of the evidence and should be released, while Harrouff’s attorneys said the recordings should remain protected.

In court Friday, Assistant State Attorney Jeffrey Hendriks asked Martin County Sheriff’s Office Detective Eugene Marcaida to give testimony. A requirement of journalist-privilege law is that the party asking for the information from the journalist must have to tried to get the same information by other means. Marcaida said he tried to interview Harrouff before he was taken to jail and read his rights, but Harrouff said his lawyers had instructed him not to respond.

In Mirman’s ruling, he said the information is relevant to the case, cannot be obtained from alternate sources and providing only part of the interview — which was previously released — would not be fair to expert witnesses asked to judge Harrouff’s mental state at the time of the attacks.

Neither party objected to a watermark or copyright if the recordings are released, but there was concern it may change the content of the video. Babcock said the watermark would only go in one of the corners of the video when released.

Harrouff’s father, Wade, was also in court but declined to speak with reporters after the hearing.

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