John Byrd

John Byrd

BENTON, La. – A Bossier City man jailed almost four years ago for punching his elderly father and stomping his mother in the head until she was unconscious was sentenced Thursday to serve 12.5 years in prison.

Bossier District Judge Mike Nerren said 40-year-old John Byrd will get credit for any time already spent behind bars.

The sentence follows Byrd’s conviction of attempted manslaughter and simple battery of the infirm following a two-day bench trial in June. Byrd orginally faced a more serious charge of attempted first-degree murder because of his parents' ages.

Byrd was arrested in December 2016 after he hit his father, Thomas Byrd, then viciously beat his mother, Kay Byrd, by stomping on her head several times as she laid on the floor. Kay Byrd, a former Bossier Parish School Board member, suffered severe injuries but survived. At the time of their attacks, Thomas Byrd was 68 and Kay Byrd, 67. 

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John Byrd entered a dual plea in May 2017 to not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity even though he confessed to his actions when arrested.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, a clinical and forensic psychologist, interviewed John Byrd in 2019, along with his father and friends, and was a witness for the defense. She concluded he was competent to stand trial and at the time of the offense was suffering from severe bipolar disorder and delusional symptoms that prevented him from knowing his actions were wrong.

Nerren said in a written ruling John Byrd’s criminal responsibility was not negated by the mere presence of a mental disease or defect. The judge noted that John Byrd stopped the attacks of his parents as police arrived and was “very compliant” with police during his arrest.

Although Nerren found Russell to be knowledgeable and credible, he did not agree with her ultimate opinion.

“It is clear that the defendant suffered from a severe mental condition at the time of the attack; however, the court believes that this condition did not preclude defendant from distinguishing between right and wrong with reference to the conduct in question,” Nerren wrote.

He added: “Upon interrogation, he admitted to either murdering or attempting to murder his parents, a clear confession which indicates that he was aware of his actions. He further attempted to justify these actions by listing all of the wrongs done to him by his parents over time. His actions were consistent with retaliation against his parents. …”

Byrd cannot claim he understood the wrongfulness of others’ actions but could not understand the wrongfulness of his own action. “The positions are clearly contradictory,” Nerren said in his ruling.

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