Man accused of Tallahassee bookstore stabbing seeks psychological evaluation

Tallahassee, Fla. (WCTV) — The case of a man accused of stabbing the Tallahassee Million Bookstore is back before a judge this week.

Lawyers for John McFarland have asked for him to undergo a psychological examination to determine if he was “unhinged at the time of the crime”.

Defense attorney Wade Rolle said McFarland had a history of mental illness and that examinations in a number of previous criminal cases “concluded that the defendant was insane”.

McFarland was arrested on June 21. He is accused of walking into the Million Bookstore on Thomasville Road and repeatedly stabbing a man in the head and neck.

The 71-year-old man, who was sitting in the cafe, survived, but his injuries are not known. Contacted by WCTV this week through the victim’s advocate, he told CNN “he is continuing his recovery and is doing relatively well.”

McFarland was reported missing from the Appalachian Center before the stabbing, but then-CEO Jay Reeve, citing federal privacy laws, did not confirm he was a patient there, arrest documents say .

WCTV continues to seek more information about John McFarlane. Court records show McFarland had a more than 20-year history of violence and mental health problems.

Duval County court records show that McFarland was arrested at least five times, including two stabbings and pulling a 9-inch knife on a city bus. In four of the five cases, McFarland was either “mentally incapacitated” or acquitted, court records show.

WCTV sent a list of questions to the Department of Children and Families headquarters in Tallahassee and to the Jacksonville State Attorney’s Office in McFarland, where most of the crimes occurred.

The Florida Department of Children and Families confirmed that McFarland has worked at the Appalachian Center in Tallahassee “without incident for nearly four years.”

Tori Cuddy, director of communications for the Northwest Territories, said he had been there since 2018, when “a court determined that the Apalachee Center was a better fit than a state mental health treatment facility.”

Cardi also pointed us to Chapter 394 of the Florida Statutes, which focuses on mental health and outlines the rules for any involuntary service or placement.

“Further national policy is to use the least restrictive appropriate available treatments based on the individual needs and best interests of the patient,” Cardi said. “If the accused is found to be mentally incapacitated and it is unlikely that the accused will gain the ability to continue the proceedings in the foreseeable future, the accused must be released or the state must initiate a civil commitment process.”

WCTV has reached out to the State Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit in Jacksonville to understand why McFarland has been repeatedly released despite his history of violence.

SAO spokesman David Chapman sent WCTV a conditional release order signed by McFarland on September 5, 2018 and signed by Circuit Judge James Daniel.

It ordered McFarland to live at the Apalachee Centre – a G or K unit – and follow a long list of requirements, including meeting with a case manager at least once a week and attending mental health treatment groups five times a week. The judge also ordered McFarland not to possess any guns or other weapons.

Chapman has defended the office’s handling of the McFarland case.

“The state has brought charges for every crime he committed. In every case, the judge found him insane, which means he may be ordered to be held in a detention facility rather than a jail or jail,” Chapman said. “In a single case where he was not found insane (the 2001 case), the state was successfully prosecuted and he served time in prison.”

McFarlane is currently facing first-degree attempted murder charges in the Tallahassee Million Book stabbing.

Defense attorney Wade Roll, who had represented McFarland in Duval County, requested permission for Dr. William Meadows to conduct a psychological evaluation, court records show. A judge has yet to rule on the request, Leon County court records show.

McFarland’s next court date is currently set for December.

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