Trial testimony focuses on mental state of accused DJ killer

Trial testimony focuses on mental state of accused DJ killer (Image 1)

Testimony continued for a second day Tuesday in the bench trial for a man accused of murdering karaoke disc jockey in a crowded south Nashville bar three years ago.

Police say Hank Wise shot Ben Goeser at Jonny's Sports Bar located at 5805 Nolensville Road on April 2, 2009.

Goeser, 49, died at the scene.

Hank Wise's mental state was the topic of testimony Tuesday, as his family took the stand.

His sister, Dayta Pilgram, testified, “He felt justified in doing what he did, because they were trying to kill him.”

Wise's sister said he would tell her stories of people threatening him at bars.

“They took pictures of him and that made him feel uncomfortable, and then, as they were leaving, one of the women turned and took her fingers across her throat,” she said.

Wise's father, Robert Ballsly, described his son as paranoid, claiming Wise feared his former wife was trying to kill him.

Ballsly said, “She was trying to poison him with tea bags, and we were there at their house when these tea bags were discovered, and I think my wife brought [them].”

Wise's defense argues Wise is not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that he suffers a severe mental illness called delusion disorder.

Dr. Kimberly Brown, Clinical Psychologist said, “Mr. Wise had a mental illness at the time of the crime that left him unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.”

Goeser and his wife, Nikki, ran a karaoke business together and were working at Jonny's Sports Bar the night of the shooting.

Authorities said Wise opened fire after Nikki told the bar manager that Wise's presence made her uncomfortable, prompting the manager to ask Wise to leave.

Investigators said Wise had developed a fascination for Nikki and had sent her inappropriate messages on MySpace.

She was among the witnesses that took the stand Monday.

Tuesday, Judge Seth Norman was shown surveillance video from the night of the shooting, which shows people running, seconds after shots were fired. 

Three of the 50 patrons at the bar then quickly pinned Wise to the ground until police arrived.

Prosecutors also played the interrogation video for the judge.

Wise's trial is a bench trial, meaning a judge will hear the case without a jury.

The judge will hear closing arguments Wednesday morning.

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