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Defense: Woman Was Insane When She Killed Pharmacy Manager

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The prosecution and defense both rested Wednesday in the trial of a woman who admitted to fatally shooting the pharmacy manager of Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center.

Prosecutors said Brenda Coney was so upset when told she had to go to the back of the line in November 2006 that she returned two days later with the sole purpose of killing 37-year-old Shannon McCants.

The defense team said Coney is a paranoid schizophrenic and was listening to demons in her head that told her to fire three shots at McCants. The mother of two who was pregnant with another child died later that day.

Prosecutors said Coney's attack was premeditated with one purpose -- to kill McCants -- and the state is seeking a conviction for first-degree murder.

Coney's defense does not dispute that Coney fired the fatal shots, but told the jury that Coney was living in a delusional world, where she thought McCants and others were plotting against her to cause her harm. They want the jury to find that Coney was legally insane when she killed McCants.

The first defense witness, psychiatrist Ernest Miller, said that while Coney can function normally most of the time, "she has another section of her brain which is divided or split off, where in there has been, in her case, structured, a community of evil-doers."

The defense said the shooting was just one violent incident committed by Coney, blaming all of them on schizophrenic.

One woman testified said Coney threatened her at a gas station a few days before the shooting.

A Shands nurse testified that Coney inexplicably slapped her following a procedure in November 2006.

A third witness told the jury Coney, who she said she had never met before, came at her in an office with a knife a few months before McCants was killed.

"This lady came in and she pulled out a machete. She came toward me ? it didn't hit me because I jumped up, and I couldn?t believe it. I said, 'What is your problem?'" said witness Betty Jean Cyrus.

The defense said Coney was unstable in the months leading up to the shooting.

A judge initially ruled Coney was not mentally fit for trial. After Coney underwent several months of treatment at a state psychiatric facility, the judge decided she was competent to stand trial.

The defense is seeking a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors played a video in which Coney admitted to detectives that that she came to the pharmacy not for her medicine, but for McCants.

She said she didn't say anything to McCants before pulling the trigger. "I just shot," Coney said on the interrogation tape.

As the tape played and even while McCants' co-workers took the stand and testified, Coney sat calmly in court, at times resting her eyes.

One by one, pharmacy workers described the day when their manager was shot and killed.

Pharmacy workers told the jury that McCants had been cheerful the morning before the shooting. However, that changed when Coney asked to speak with her.

"(Coney) grabbed a gun out of her purse and aimed it at Shannon," said witness Martha Bowser.

Prosecutors showed surveillance video of the pharmacy lobby. They said the video showed Coney with a gun in her purse right before the shooting.

The surveillance video showed the crowd of people scrambling for cover after shots were fired.

Closing arguments will begin late Thursday morning. After lunch, the jury is expected to begin its deliberations.

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