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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Court OKs Release of Accused Killer’s ‘Dr. Phil’ Talk

A Florida appellate court refused to block the release of a “Dr. Phil” show interview with alleged murderer and face-biter, Austin Harrouff.

(CN) - A Florida appellate court refused to block the release of a “Dr. Phil” show interview with alleged murderer and face-biter Austin Harrouff.

Harrouff, 20, is accused of attacking and stabbing a couple last August in front of their Jupiter, Fla., home. Police say deputies arrived to find Harrouff biting on the husband’s face and spitting out his flesh.

In the interview, Harrouff tells television personality Dr. Phil about a dark entity named “Daniel” and describes the murder scene as a “nightmare.”

Nellie King, Harrouff’s attorney, asked the Fourth District Court of Appeals to reverse an earlier circuit court decision allowing media access to the videotaped Skype interview. King claimed the video could prejudice a jury in Harrouff’s upcoming murder trial.

Harrouff faces two counts of first-degree murder with a weapon in the deaths of 59-year-old John Stevens and 53-year-old Michelle Mishcon. The Florida State University student was also charged with attempted first-degree murder with a weapon for stabbing a neighbor who tried to intervene.

According to the arrest report, Martin County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call and found Harrouff in his boxers and a T-shirt on top of Stevens, making guttural noises and biting him. Harrouff did not stop chewing on Stevens’ cheek, even as multiple police used stun guns and a police dog to try and wrest the teen from Stevens.

After successfully handcuffing Harrouff, according to court documents, he told an officer, “Help me, I ate something bad.” When the officer asked what he ate, Harrouff responded, “Humans.”

Police transported Harrouff to a local hospital where he remained for over a month.

During his hospitalization, Harrouff granted the "Dr. Phil" interview, which never aired. (An interview with Harrouff’s father did appear on the program in the weeks after the murders.)

In the 22-minute video, Dr. Phil asks Harrouff to describe the evening of the murders from when he left a family dinner at a local restaurant to seeing “Daniel.”

“When I saw him, it wasn’t like a clear person,” Harrouff said. “It was a dark figure, because it was, like, pitch black outside and I couldn’t see. But I heard his voice distinctly. But, like, when I saw him, I just got scared out of my mind.”

Harrouff also denied taking steroids, bath salts or the synthetic drug flakka, which has been known to cause psychotic episodes in users.

“Is it a crystal or something?” Harrouff answered McGraw’s question about flakka. “I don’t know. My dad told me it was a crystal or something.”

A toxicology report performed by the FBI only found alcohol and a trace amount of marijuana.

Harrouff said he cannot remember much about the altercation with the couple in their garage.

“It’s like it happened but like I wasn’t aware of it at the time,” he told Dr. Phil.

When Dr. Phil asks Harrouff to say something to the victims’ family, he begins to break down in tears.

“I’m sorry for their loss,” he said. “I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I’m so sorry. I never wanted this to happen. I’m so sorry.”

In February, a South Florida television news station asked Martin County Circuit Judge Lawrence Mirman to allow release of the video. Last week, Judge Mirman agreed, which led to Harrouff’s lawyer’s appeal.

After a review of the video, the appellate court wrote Harrouff had “no privacy interest in the interview, as he gave it for publication on television.”

The court stated the video “was not prejudicial to the defendant and would not change the status quo in defendant’s ability to get a fair jury.”

“The material is simply not inflammatory or prejudicial at all,” the court added.

In a statement, Harrouff’s attorney King said she disagreed with the decision but admitted the video illustrates the young man’s mental health problems.

“There is a mountain of information about his young man that will substantiate his mental illness at the time of the offense,” she wrote. “The fact that some of this was discussed in an interview with a TV personality does nothing to change the fact that Austin was mentally ill at the time of the incident.”

She added that the videos release “has now tainted the jury pool no matter how far and wide the parties search for panelists. The video serves no purpose other than to further the pain of the victim’s families.”

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Categories / Appeals, Criminal, Law, Regional, Trials

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