By Novpreet Shoker
Eduardo Alejandro Letelier is currently facing the primary charge of child molestation, and the hearing that took place today, on April 19 in Department 10 at 1:30 p.m., focused on the testimony of a psychological expert, Dr. Eugene Roeder, who was retained by the defendant’s attorney, Michael Chastaine. Judge Dan Maguire, along with 12 jury members, listened as both attorneys questioned Dr. Roeder about the various tests conducted on the defendant to determine his psychological state of mind.
Ultimately, Dr. Roeder’s findings were that the defendant showed positive indications in his test results, allowing him to conclude that, other than his physical ailment of rheumatoid arthritis which caused an abnormal score, Mr. Letelier was not experiencing other issues concerning his mental state. Chastaine asked about the doctor’s methodology, and Dr. Roeder revealed that his primary use of analyzing the defendant was the DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which offers a universal standard for identifying and classifying mental disorders.
Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Melinda Aiello then proceeded to cross-examine Dr. Roeder by beginning with the cautionary statement that is attached to the DSM. After she questioned him about it, Dr. Roeder agreed that the cautionary statement about the DSM’s use in legal proceedings was precise.
She continued to ask the psychologist about evidence the doctor did not submit in his report. Along with being given various police reports, Dr. Roeder was also given a tape of the victim’s interview, but he did not include it in his statement. His explanation was that he was to focus on the defendant and the task at hand, and, because he did not watch the tape, he did not deem it relevant to include it in his report.
Deputy DA Aiello then asked the doctor how much time he spent with the defendant to conduct his analysis, to which he answered four hours. Ms. Aiello probed whether four hours was enough to gain an accurate diagnosis of Mr. Letelier, and Dr. Roeder countered by explaining that the DSM provides a more reliable diagnosis regardless of time spent with the patient.
The prosecuting attorney continued her cross-examination by displaying some of the intelligence tests given to the defendant to complete, and asked the doctor to explain the purpose behind each. After the jury observed several of these samples, Ms. Aiello asked Dr. Roeder if these tests were able to reveal any signs of pedophilia, to which he answered no, that they do not offer any direct conclusion.
Aiello also had Roeder confirm that these tests were self-reported by the defendant, and she also introduced other tests that might reveal more direct results but were not used. In response, the doctor remained adamant that the DSM was the logical standard to use. She also continued to question the validity of the tests by asking the doctor about whether or not the tests were foolproof, and speculated about online loopholes that a patient could use to deceive the tests. The doctor agreed with Aiello in a general sense, but did not acknowledge any actual discrepancies that might have occurred.
Aiello’s last question was whether this psychological evaluation can determine whether or not the defendant is guilty, and Dr. Roeder answered that it cannot.
Mr. Chastaine then on redirect proceeded to ask the doctor about individuals who do act on such an urge, and how common it is for these individuals to have only one allegation set against them. Dr. Roeder responded that it is highly unusual for an individual to have only one allegation against them.
After Chastaine’s questions, the DDA asked the doctor if it is possible for an individual to pass these evaluations and still molest a child. Dr. Roeder answered yes.
After this series of questioning, the jury submitted their questions for the doctor. Some of the questions were about the test results, in which the defendant scored an IQ of 107, placing him in the 67th percentile, and if other tests were conducted than the ones presented in the case, to which Dr. Roeder answered no. After this, the jury was escorted out of the courtroom.
At the end of the proceedings, Aiello brought to attention some ambiguity about what kind of swabs were taken from the victim for the sex kit. She asked to return the nurse who conducted the swabs so as to allow for some clarification about the perioral swab (from tissues in or around the mouth) in question. Chastaine stated he would also like to cross-examine, and so the nurse will be put on the stand once again.
The attorneys went on to discuss the following proceedings for which they will put Dr. Carmichael and Detective Desprez on the stand as well.
Chastaine also stated that he will put character witnesses on the stand for the remainder of the trial.
The last of the decisions included aiming for closing arguments to be on either Friday afternoon, or Monday morning. As for the rest of the week, the trial will proceed throughout both days, beginning at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday morning.