Mother who drove kids into ocean off Daytona Beach to learn fate

Attorney representing Ebony Wilkerson faints in court

A public defender representing Ebony Wilkerson faints in court.
A public defender representing Ebony Wilkerson faints in court.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – An attorney representing a South Carolina mother who drove her three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach fainted Tuesday morning during a court hearing.


Julianne Morris, who's representing 33-year-old Ebony Wilkerson, of Myrtle Beach, collapsed while questioning Dr. Jeffrey Danziger, a psychiatrist.

[VIDEO: Attorney faints in courtroom]

The judge cleared the courtroom as emergency workers helped Morris, who was conscious and talking with deputies.

The hearing resumed Tuesday afternoon as the state continued to present its case.

Dr. Jeffrey Danziger claimed Wilkerson has psychotic disorder unspecified and should have her tubes tied because post partum depression may have played a role when she drove her van with her kids into the ocean on March 2014.

Before the recess was called, Danziger said that in his first meetings with Wilkerson, she was "catatonic (and) mute at times" but was also "elated (and) euphoric" at other times.

Danziger said Wilkerson's pregnancy likely played a role when she drove into the ocean, adding that if she had her tubes tied it would likely prevent any future psychotic episodes.

The defense said Wilkerson would be willing to get her tubes tied if she was put on conditional release.  Morris then collapsed.

Dr. William Meadows' testimony on Tuesday contradicted that of a defense psychiatrist who said earlier in the day that Ebony Wilkerson's mental illness appeared to be in remission.

"What I find unusual is various diagnoses she's received from various individuals. That concerns me. We don't have a good handle on what's going on with her. I think in large part, it has reflected in psychological testing," said Dr. Meadows.

Meadows says Wilkerson has shown an unwillingness to admit she has mental illness. He also says what happened last March was similar to a 2005 episode when Wilkerson was hearing voices to kill her family and herself.

Meadows also stated after an episode that landed her in the hospital back in 2005, having Wilkerson's tubes tied would not be an effective form of treatment. He recommended a forensic facility.

 "They provide mental health treatment, psychoeducational groups, individual counseling that deal with those particular issues that are risk factors," said Meadows.

Another expert who was the last to take the stand recommended a treatment facility rather than being committed.

If Circuit Judge Leah Case decides no hospitalization is required, Wilkerson could be released under the court's supervision.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Wednesday at 9 a.m.

The judge ruled last week that Wilkerson was not guilty by reason of insanity to child abuse. Prosecutors, in turn, dropped three attempted murder counts. Both the judge and Wilkerson's lawyer say the hearing and last week's plea are unusual.

Wilkerson drove her van into the surf off Daytona Beach in March. Bystanders and officers pulled her and her children from the van.

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