Lynnsey Evakarla Braun was legally insane when she fatally shot a Sacramento man aboard a downtown Regional Transit light-rail car in January 2014, Sacramento Superior Court jurors decided Wednesday, finding Braun not guilty by reason of insanity.
The same panel last week had earlier found her guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 51-year-old Eric McCaster aboard the Sunrise-bound train at downtown’s Archives Plaza on the night of Jan. 23, 2014. The shooting was the first homicide aboard an RT train in the transit agency’s history.
But the jurors’ decision Wednesday at the end of the trial’s sanity phase before Judge Allen Sumner sets the stage for a years-long, perhaps lifetime state hospital commitment for Braun.
Summer is expected to announce where Braun will be committed at a June 10 hearing.
Sumner acknowledged jurors’ work during the monthlong trial, saying the panel tackled “some of the more difficult issues in the legal system. The decisions you had to make, no machine can make.”
Defense experts testified that Braun, homeless with a long history of mental illness, including paranoid psychosis, feared McCaster was armed and planned to take over the train. Braun shot McCaster six times at close range, mortally wounding the Sacramento man before Braun was taken into custody.
Sacramento County prosecutors say McCaster boarded the light rail just before 10 p.m., and sat across the aisle from Braun. An inebriated McCaster started a conversation with Braun, dropping a pistol-shaped bottle sheathed in a plastic holster on the floor of the car, before picking it up. Prosecutors say Braun ignored McCaster until reaching into a small suitcase by her side for a .357-caliber revolver.
Braun told officers she was defending herself when she shot McCaster dead. Prosecutor Thomas Asker said Braun, homeless and transgender, traveled the train every day, her gun a constant companion. She had been arrested the previous year on a concealed weapons charge, Asker said.
“That’s a tough lifestyle (but) she managed that every day,” Asker said.