Jury convicts woman of six sidewalk slayings with her car


RENO, Nev. -- Rejecting her insanity plea, a jury convicted a woman on six counts of first-degree murder for driving her car on a downtown sidewalk and killing six people on Thanksgiving Day 1980.

The District Court jury of seven women and five men returned the verdict Friday against Priscilla Ford, 51, after taking the case under consideration Wednesday night.


Judge John Barrett set Wednesday for a hearing to determine the penalty. The same jury will order the sentence.

District Attorney Cal Dunlap said he would decide before the hearing whether he would seek death in the gas chamber for Mrs. Ford who could also be sentenced to life behind bars.

The trial lasted just over five months and was the longest in northern Nevada history.

Barrett had told the jury in his instructions that it must decide whether Mrs Ford was innocent, innocent by reason of insanity or guilty of the charges. Mrs. Ford had pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

Barrett told the jury the law presumes her to be sane unless the evidence proves otherwise. He said mental illness was no excuse for committing a crime unless she did not know the nature and quality of the acts, did not have the capacity to determine right from wrong or did not know she was doing wrong when she committed the crime.


Mrs. Ford was accused of turning her Lincoln Continental onto a casino district sidewalk, driving through a crowd for nearly two blocks, then turning back onto the street for another two blocks before the car was halted in traffic.

Mrs. Ford said her car had a steering problem and veered onto the sidewalk. She testified that she did not remember hitting anyone.

Defense psychiatrists diagnosed her as a paranoid schizophrenic with religious delusions that led her to believe she was Jesus Christ and having a 'God-like right' to kill.

The prosecution agreed she was mentally ill but argued not to the degree where she did not know right from wrong. It said she planned the crime because she was bitter at the world for not giving her the attention she believed was her due.

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