SOUTH BEND -- While awaiting trial on two murder charges and a slew of other accusations, Brandon Biffle spent much of his time in the St. Joseph County Jail in the rubber room, where inmates on suicide watch are generally sent.
He slept on the floor and smeared feces on himself and the walls of his cell, according to testimony from a psychiatrist who evaluated him.
The 29-year-old's actions seemed to be those of a crazy man, maybe even legally insane.
Or was his behavior a ploy to appear insane, a charade put on with the hopes of mitigating his punishment?
In fact, everything he is accused of -- shooting to death Johnnie Avance, a man he considered a friend, and Donald Paris, a man who was just walking by, engaging four police officers in a gunfight and recklessly firing at passing cars -- seems to be the work of a mad man.
That is what his attorney, Jeffrey Kimmell, argued in court Thursday.
Yet Chief Deputy Prosecutor Ken Cotter disputed Biffle's insanity claim, arguing that the man is not plagued with a serious mental illness or defect and knew full well what he did on Aug. 12 in the 1600 block of Olive Street was wrong.
Cotter referenced doubts from doctors that Biffle's appearance of insanity was genuine.
On the third day of Biffle's bench trial, St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jane Woodward Miller heard testimony from three mental health professionals who evaluated Biffle after he was arrested for the shootings.
Biffle's stories to the different doctors were inconsistent, but he generally recalled a dangerous and violent childhood marred by "gangbanging" and gun violence.
He told them he came to Avance's house that night and asked for a place to stay. He considered Avance a friend and was homeless, according to the doctors' testimony.
He also described hearing voices and feeling like a puppet controlled by an outside force, according to testimony from the doctors.
"The devil is going to kill me. I have to get out of town," Biffle told Dr. Warren Sibilla, the psychologist who first evaluated him in October, relaying some of what the voices told him.
Sibilla said Biffle told him he was sleepless, frenzied and pacing the night before the shooting. The man said he blacked out and woke up in a hospital where he was being treated for his injuries after the gunfight with police.
Doctors had to amputate his leg because of the gunshot wounds he suffered. He also lost a thumb.
Biffle sat in the courtroom in a wheelchair. Dressed in the same blue-gray button-down shirt and khakis each day, Biffle watched the proceedings motionless, and never showed emotion.
Biffle told the second doctor who evaluated him in November a similar story about being in somewhat of a "fugue state" during the shootings, according to Dr. Evert VanderStoep, a psychiatrist who works at Oaklawn.
The man told VanderStoep he had scattered, vague memories of that day, but couldn't separate what he actually remembered from what police told him happened.
VanderStoep said he also reported hearing voices the night before.