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J.W. Carney Jr. secures not-guilty verdict in high-profile case for Jeffrey Yao

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Jeffrey Yao was accused of first-degree murder after he stabbed a patron at the Winchester Public Library on Feb. 24, 2018. Now, three experts have determined that Jeffrey suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He was hearing voices on the day of the stabbing and thought that the victim was threatening him.

The case made news across the state when Jeffrey was indicted for fatally stabbing the 22-year-old medical student and wounding a bystander who tried to stop the stabbing. Jeffrey pleaded not guilty and was held without bail. J.W. Carney Jr. represented Jeffrey as his defense attorney in this high-profile and challenging case.

The alleged events of Feb. 24, 2018

On Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, Jeffrey Yao concealed a knife in his pants and entered the library just before 10 a.m. He spent about 20 minutes pacing in a resource room before stabbing Deanne Stryker. A bystander, 77-year-old Lester Taber, tried to intervene, but Jeffrey stabbed him as well. Stryker was later pronounced dead. Taber was seriously injured.

Although the case may seem straightforward, questions about Jeffrey’s mental health come into play when determining if a prison conviction is the right answer. During the stabbing, Jeffrey was heard talking about hearing voices and later found to be “grossly psychotic.” He had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia with paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations.

Although Jeffrey appeared to have planned the attack, according to at least one medical expert, his plan was to attack the tormenting voices. He apparently believed that one of the voices was emanating from Stryker.

The three experts concluded that Jeffrey lacked the capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law or to understand the wrongfulness of his actions.

These expert opinions were based on more than 3,000 pages of records, including police investigatory materials and interviews, along with Jeffrey’s substantial psychiatric history.

Outcome of the case

Jeffrey was scheduled for trial in Woburn on March 31. As a result of the experts’ evaluations, however, the state has agreed with the defense to limit the testimony at the trial. The judge found Jeffrey not guilty because of his severe mental illness.

This will not mean Jeffrey will go free. Instead, he will be committed to Bridgewater State Hospital, a maximum security facility. He will remain there until he is found to have recovered from his mental illness and no longer presents a danger to the community. He may remain there for the rest of his life.

We hope that this outcome will help bring closure to those affected by this tragedy.


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