June 10, 2023
Local News

Psychiatrist testifies Joliet casino murder defendant unfit for trial

Defendant has asked a jury to determine his fitness for trial

A jury heard testimony from another psychological expert in the Joliet Harrah’s casino murder case, with this one saying she determined the defendant was unfit for trial.

On Wednesday, psychiatrist Monica Argumedo discussed her evaluation of 26-year-old Robert Watson’s mental health issues. Watson has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing Emanuel Burgarino, 76, to death at the Harrah’s casino hotel in downtown Joliet on March 24, 2019, court records show.

Watson has asked a jury to determine whether he is fit to stand trial. He's chosen not to testify at the hearing, which is expected to have closing arguments on Thursday.

Argumedo said she performed her evaluation of Watson last December, several months after he was evaluated by Anna Stapleton, a psychologist at River Valley Justice Center. Stapleton said she determined Watson was fit for trial.

Argumedo said her “clinical impression” was that Watson appeared to suffer from a psychotic mental illness because he gave a “thousand-yard stare,” he said he hears demons telling him to kill himself, and he said he’s not able to eat the food at the jail because he believed the guards were poisoning and spitting in the food.

She said she didn’t get the impression Watson was faking a mental illness and the “thousand-yard stare” is not often faked.

Argumedo said Watson is unfit for trial because of his mental illness and his inability to assist his attorneys in his defense. She said Watson refused to speak with his attorney Shenonda Tisdale at times or answer basic questions.

Stapleton testified there was no indication from records on Watson that he was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. She said he attempted to portray himself as cognitively deficient by claiming he had a learning disability and personality disorder when he was in school.

Stapleton said Watson also told her he would see and hear football stadiums, which she said was odd because the majority of hallucinations observed with schizophrenic and psychotic disorders are “persecutory in nature.”

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News