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Teen's Lawyer Explains Insanity Plea in Mom Murder

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The attorney for Tylar Witt says his client s unexpected not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea on Monday doesn t necessarily mean the 15-year-old admits to murdering her mother.

El Dorado County Assistant Public Defender Mark Ralphs says Tylar actually entered two pleas in Superior Court: not guilty, and not guilty by reason of insanity.

“The distinction is, if the defendant only enters a not-guilty-by-reason-of insanity plea, they re saying, I committed the conduct but I m not responsible because I m insane,’ ” explains Ralphs. “In our case, we don t believe she committed the conduct that she is accused of, and we re confident that a jury would so find. But we want to keep all of our options open.”

Prosecutors say that, after Joanne Witt, 47, read her then-14-year-old daughter s diary last June and accused her much older boyfriend, Steven Colver, of statutory rape, Tylar drugged her mother and Colver stabbed her 20 times and slashed her throat with a butcher knife.

Colver, 20, entered a regular not guilty plea.

Tylar’s attorney declined to discuss what arguments he might make to suggest the B-student was insane when her mother was killed.
RELATED: Tylar Witt, 15, Pleads Insanity in Mom’s Murder

“I don t feel like I can get into that with you,” Ralphs says. “There are some unusual facts and circumstances in this case, and there are some other issues” that haven t surfaced.