Famous ex-NASA spacewoman and Navy pilot Lisa Nowak, accused of planning to abduct and rough up her stellar love rival Colleen Shipman, may be preparing a defence of temporary insanity.
The troubled astronaut, who was said to have worn nappies during a cross-country dash to intercept Shipman at a Florida airport, is to stand trial on attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary charges on September 24. Depending on the results of the civil proceedings, she might then face a court martial for naval offences such as conduct unbecoming an officer.
Police and prosecutors have stated that Nowak tooled up with a compressed-air pistol, rubber tubing, a knife and a steel mallet for her confrontation with Shipman. It's alleged that she squirted pepper spray through the other woman's car window in the airport parking area, perhaps as a prelude to further misdeeds, but Shipman made a getaway to the entry area where police intervened.
Space shuttle pilot and naval aviator Bill Oefelein was said to have concurrently been the object of both ladies affections, despite Nowak's being married to a brother navy flyer at the time. Space shuttle flight veterans Nowak and Oefelein were shown the door by NASA after the story broke, and both are in holding assignments with the Navy until legal matters are resolved.
Reuters reports that court papers released on Tuesday say that Nowak contends she is fit to stand trial. Nonetheless, she reserves the option of mounting a temporary insanity defence should the case proceed to court.
Nowak's lawyers are currently trying to have vital evidence thrown out on the grounds that a police interrogation and search of her car violated her constitutional rights. If this move is successful, the prosecution case might collapse.
However, if the evidence stands, Nowak's defence team will probably be compelled to fall back on her mental state at the time of the carpark unpleasantness.
According to Reuters, Nowak states that her psychiatric problems included obsessive compulsive disorder, a "partner relational problem," depressive weight loss of 15 percent of her body mass and a temporary "mixed manic and depressive-like state."
"Even the most naive observer should recognize that Lisa Nowak's behavior on February 5 was uncharacteristic and unpredicted for such an accomplished person with no criminal record or history of violence," according to Nowak's PR.
The defence documents also contend that Nowak suffered from a lack of sympathetic support at the time. This is said to have been connected to the fact that she had separated from her husband and felt unable to confide in her family and "social contacts."
It was reported recently that Nowak was "shocked and overwhelmed" at the media coverage of the case. Fair enough, we say. There's clearly nothing particularly interesting about a nappy-clad, knife and hammer-toting, trenchcoated astronaut mother of three plotting to mace and kidnap a younger rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot.®