Judge rules student insane in professor’s killing

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Leslie A. Swain ruled Tuesday that former graduate student David Jonathan Brown was not guilty by reason of insanity for the first-degree murder of USC professor Bosco Tjan, according to the L.A. County District Attorney’s office.

The ruling was made after reviewing evaluation reports from two psychiatrists, including Risa Grand, a forensic psychiatrist who works with the L.A. County Superior Court and is a clinical assistant professor at the Keck School of Medicine and closely examined Brown’s mental state.

“It’s highly unusual for this plea to even be taken into consideration, less than one percent,” Grand said. “It’s very rare.”

Grand said she could not comment on the specifics of the case.

Steve Schoenfield, Brown’s public defender, said that Brown will now receive treatment for his mental illness.

“My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of Mr. Tjan,” Schoenfield said. “David will be sent to a hospital where he will receive the psychiatric care and treatment that he desperately needs.”

Brown had been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Tjan at Seeley G. Mudd, with a special allegation of using a “deadly and dangerous weapon” to kill Tjan, according to Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman.

Tjan had worked at the University since 2001, was considered an expert in vision research and served as the co-director of the Dornsife Cognitive Neuroimaging Center.

Police said that the murder was motivated by a “personal dispute.”

Brown, who was studying neuroscience, had previously taken a leave of absence from working in Tjan’s lab at USC for “personal reasons” two years ago, according to the New York Daily News.

Brown could have faced between 25 years to life in prison if convicted for the first-degree murder charge.

Brown was arrested in December 2016, and has remained in custody since then. Last May, Brown pleaded not guilty to charges of use of a deadly weapon, as well as not guilty by reason of insanity for the murder.

Brown will return to court on March 6 for a placement hearing, where a judge will decide if he is sent to a state mental hospital, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Editor’s note: The headline of this article has been updated for clarity.