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Jury rejects insanity defense in Schaffhausen trial

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After three and a half hours of deliberation, jurors determined that Aaron Schaffhausen knew what he was doing when he killed his three young daughters in River Falls last summer.

Schaffhausen faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for each daughter’s death, although a judge could decide to make him eligible for extended supervision after he serves at least 20 years, the Star Tribune noted. A sentencing date is expected to be scheduled for this summer.

Last month, Schaffhausen, 35, pleaded guilty to the murder of 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia, but claimed he was insane at the time.

In the second phase of the trial, Schaffhausen's attorneys attempted to convince a jury that because of his mental illness he lacked the capacity to conform to the requirements of the law.

Attorneys gave their closing arguments Tuesday, the Star Tribune reports. Defense attorney John Kucinski told jurors the slayings were "psychogenetic killings" that arose from Schaffhausen's mental disease, triggered by the end of his marriage and loss of his children through divorce.

During opening statements, Kucinski told jurors that Schaffhausen was in a dream-like state at the time of the murders and his complex psychological condition stemming from severe depression makes him not legally responsible.

Lead prosector Gary Freyberg argued Schaffhausen made a conscious choice to kill the girls as a "selfish desire for revenge" against his ex-wife, Jessica Schaffhausen.

During more than two weeks of testimony, Jessica took the stand and described her failing marriage with Schaffhausen, who she said was suffering from depression, was a heavy drinker and sometimes neglectful of their children. She said she urged him to get help.

Unbeknownst to Jessica, her ex-husband eventually stopped taking prescribed anti-depressants. Schaffhausen began to harass Jessica and made threats towards her and the girls following their divorce.

Schaffhausen's former co-workers and roommates also took the stand and testified that Schaffhausen often talked about killing his family.

Three mental health experts who interviewed Schaffhausen following the killings agreed that he suffered from extreme depression. But only one doctor, appointed by the defense, claimed he was legally insane during the murders.

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