In a surprising turn of events, a psychiatrist revealed to a jury in the Vista courthouse that he had changed his mind about the sanity of the defendant. The reversal came when Dr. David Naimark watched a videotaped interview of the defendant conducted shortly after he’d stabbed a woman to death.
In the first week of the two-week trial, six eyewitnesses described what happened at the El Camino North shopping mall in Oceanside on April 3, 2009. They said they saw Eric Andreasen, then 37, grab 54-year-old Katherine Parker from behind. The two struggled while the woman clutched her purse. Then Andreasen knifed Parker and dropped her limp body onto the blacktop.
Parker died on a nearby helicopter pad before she could be flown to a hospital. The doctor who performed her autopsy testified that Parker died of blood loss. There were eight stab wounds in her belly, the deepest penetrating through her abdomen into her spine. Showing the jury a photo of the gashes, the prosecutor said, “Think about the force that is used to plunge this knife all the way in.” A kitchen knife with a six-inch blade was recovered from the scene.
At the end of the first week of trial, the jury declared Andreasen guilty of first-degree murder during a robbery. There followed a week of testimony to determine his sanity. The soft-spoken psychiatrist took the witness stand at the end of the second week.
Naimark, a forensic psychiatrist for the County of San Diego, testified for the prosecution. He had been expected to testify for the defense. He said that he is called as an expert witness by both prosecutors and defense attorneys. “I get the same paycheck from the county no matter what I say,” he told the jury.
Naimark said that after he was assigned the case, he reviewed the defendant’s criminal history, court records, and hospital records. He saw that Andreasen had been on psychiatric medication and had received mental-health treatment for years. “There is overwhelming evidence that he does suffer from a mental disorder, schizophrenia,” the doctor said.
In March 2010, Naimark conducted the first of two interviews with Andreasen. The doctor described Andreasen’s response to questions about the murder.
“He was somewhat evasive of discussing the actual act,” Naimark said. “He was uncomfortable with that.”
Andreasen did not call the woman the “victim”; instead, he referred to her as the “stranger.”
Although Andreasen wouldn’t speak of the woman’s stabbing, he did show the doctor a scar on his own belly. The psychiatrist stated that this was an effort to gain sympathy, and he called it “manipulation.” (Another witness testified that Andreasen’s scar, which ran from his groin to his chest, resulted from a self-inflicted wound.)
Andreasen lived with his mother and her husband, Bert Fenenga, less than a mile from the shopping center where Parker was killed.
Naimark testified that Andreasen “was angry at his mother for various things. He thought she was impeding his life.”
Earlier in the trial, Fenenga had testified as a witness for the defense. He told the jury that shortly before the homicide, he and Eric Andreasen’s mother sat down with Andreasen to go over a list of house rules. They presented him with a typed list so he couldn’t use the excuse “you never told me.”
The numbered list of 17 rules was displayed on a large screen in the courtroom. Among them were “Don’t let the cats out” and “Don’t leave house doors open.” Andreasen was told that he couldn’t drink alcohol and that he would not be provided with cigarettes. Fenenga said the last rule was new. He also said that neighbors had complained about Andreasen approaching and bothering them, so Andreasen was told he couldn’t talk to neighbors. Did Andreasen follow these rules? Fenenga said no.
Dr. Naimark said that when he interviewed Andreasen, Andreasen told him, “I was way out there, crazy when it happened.” But Andreasen did not say he was ordered to kill, and he did not describe a hallucination.
When the doctor asked Andreasen why he’d stabbed Katherine Parker, Andreasen said, “I just wanted everybody who didn’t care for me to get in trouble.” He also said, “I needed help, I needed attention. No one gives it to me.” The doctor believed Andreasen did it “to gain attention, to get care.” He said Andreasen “was not functioning adequately in society.”
After interviewing Andreasen, Naimark concluded that Andreasen was so mentally ill that he was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. The doctor submitted his report to the court, and the defense attorney prepared an insanity defense.
But months later, the judge allowed Naimark to view more evidence: video recordings of Andreasen made just after he’d been arrested and recordings of witnesses’ statements, calls Andreasen made from jail, and visits between Andreasen and his mother.
The videos of Andreasen in police custody were especially “compelling” in determining the defendant’s mental state during the attack, Naimark said, because the doctor could see how Andreasen was acting just hours after the homicide occurred.
In the courtroom, an Oceanside police surveillance video was played on a big screen. Naimark watched from the witness box and commented on what he saw for the jury. The 23-minute video showed Andreasen as he arrived at police headquarters about an hour after the stabbing. His hands were cuffed behind him. He was brought into a large room with several desks and steered into one corner, where he was put into a six-by-six-foot cell with tall, clear walls. He paced back and forth inside it, moving in an agitated way. He yelled often but also mumbled to himself. He spewed the F-word probably a hundred times.
“This video helped me put into context what the defendant told me he was experiencing at the time,” Naimark said. “I noted he was angry. He was cursing. He was speaking about nobody giving a shit about him.”
“He is expressing rage, basically.”
On cross-examination, defense attorney Dan Segura suggested Andreasen’s rambling speech and restless behavior showed that he was delusional, but the doctor disagreed. “He sounds enraged at that point. I think he is agitated,” Naimark said. “He’s got a lot going on in his head.”
At another point, Andreasen complained out loud that now he would get the death penalty. Naimark said this showed “some knowledge of the wrongfulness of his act.”
Defense attorney Segura reminded the doctor that two witnesses said Andreasen shouted “God told me to do it” immediately after he stabbed Parker. But Naimark did not agree that Andreasen acted on a “command delusion.”
Naimark said the most critical evidence he reviewed, the evidence that caused him to change his mind about Andreasen’s sanity, was a videotaped interview conducted about three hours after the stabbing.
In that 27-minute video, which was shown to the jury, Andreasen was brought by officers into a small interview room. His hands remained cuffed behind his back, but an officer removed the shackles on his ankles. Andreasen sat down on a plastic chair against the far wall. He looked and sounded calm and composed. Two detectives sat facing him and engaged him in conversation. Do you know right from wrong? Can you give us an example of wrong? “Torturing somebody,” offered Andreasen. “Homosexuality. Lesbian marriage.”
The conversation ranged. Andreasen said he wanted a fish tank for Christmas one year, but he got a guitar, so he learned to play the guitar. He was asked about pets. “Got some pretty nice cats.” He looked lost in thought for a moment. He said he wanted to see a psychiatrist soon because he needed medication to sleep and to calm down. He said, “I suffer from insomnia for some reason,” and he yawned and sighed several times.
During one quiet moment, officers asked Andreasen the name of the tune he was humming. He told them it was “Riders on the Storm,” by the Doors. Some of the lyrics of this song are the following:
There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah.
At the end of the video, a man came in to photograph the prisoner. He asked Andreasen about a red bump on his forehead. How did he get that? Andreasen explained that he banged his head against a sink while he was in the holding cell trying to get the attention of officers.
Dr. Naimark also listened to a recording of a conversation that occurred between Andreasen and his mother when she came to visit him in jail. They spoke about the woman who was stabbed. On the recording, Andreasen can be heard saying “At least she’s old,” and Andreasen also said the victim was “unlucky.”
Naimark said he listened to a recorded phone call that Andreasen made from jail to a female acquaintance three days after the murder. He told her “I’m back in jail” and said he had been caught stealing change out of cars. Complaining that his mother would not give him cigarettes, he asked the woman to send him $30. (She didn’t.)
A toxicology report showed that Andreasen had Abilify, an antipsychotic, and Remeron, an antidepressant, in his system when he was arrested. The doctor said the presence of these drugs meant “it would be likely his psychosis would be mitigated.”
“After I had seen the new material, I then changed my opinion,” Naimark told the jury. “My opinion is that he was capable of knowing the nature and quality of the act he was committing.”
Naimark said that although Andreasen suffered from a mental illness, he was capable of distinguishing right from wrong. “What mostly drove him was probably his anger. What drove him was his rage.”
The same day that Naimark finished his testimony, jurors were sent to deliberate. The eight men and four women took about four hours to come to a unanimous decision. On March 29, they came back with their verdict that Andreasen was legally sane when he stabbed Katherine Parker to death.
Chatting in the courthouse hallways after they’d been dismissed, jurors said that Naimark’s testimony was the most persuasive they heard. More than 16 witnesses were called during the sanity phase of the trial.
Andreasen’s sentencing is currently scheduled for April 21, but the judge said he expected it to be delayed.