The trial of Aquelin Talamantes raged forward with further testimony from various medical and non-medical personnel. Testimony in the previous days has focused more on Talamantes’ mental state generally and from her past, but today more emphasis was given to explaining her mental state at the time of the crime. For those who have not heard, Aquelin Talamantes was living in Davis, CA when she is believed to have drowned her five-year old daughter.
The majority of testimony on Thursday, May 22, 2014, came from a psychiatrist, Dr. Captane Thomson, with further testimony from an emergency room doctor, Ryan Hunt, and a jail spiritual advisor, Deborah Mumma.
It is important to note that often, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens and Deputy Public Defender Sally Fredricksen would ask mental health questions of these witnesses about their previous experience in the field, or even cases previously testified in, without necessarily claiming their statements to be applicable to Aquelin. A prime example today was when DDA Couzens questioned Dr. Thomson regarding what the word psychotic means and does not mean in relation to an individual understanding their actions.
Dr. Thomson said an individual who is actually psychotic and suffers from a diagnosed mental illness could potentially realize what their actions are in any given moment. However, he continued that a sufferer of mental illness might not be able to comprehend the consequences to those actions. Furthermore, another level of complexity is introduced into this case from the mentioned statements of Dr. Thomson because it begs for more specific and clear information into Talamantes’ culpability at the time of the incident.
Couzens did not miss a beat and immediately began inquiring of Dr. Thomson details about how traumatic past experiences typically influence individuals into the future. Couzens asked if Aquelin’s horrible childhood experiences like molestation automatically preclude being psychologically delusional, in addition to being emotionally distressed. Dr. Thomson affirmed it was possible to simply only be emotionally distressed from these experiences, but not necessarily psychologically delusional.
Additionally, Dr. Thomson did not believe Talamantes’ actions were brought forth by drug use, despite questionable past use of methamphetamine. Thomson said this because of the absence of visible physical signs of drug use and the negative blood sample. Couzens asked Dr. Thomson a hypothetical: what if Talamantes had in fact been using methamphetamine while living with her sister Torres, would this change your assessment? Thomson said it would not. Thomson was adamant about not believing Talamantes killed her daughter due to a drug-induced psychosis, be it withdrawals or anything drug-related.
Dr. Thomson did agree that a mother who would take the life of her own child would fit the bill for having mental health issues. Still, despite a person suffering from mental illness and potentially not understanding the consequences of impending actions, perhaps a motivation still exists. When Dr. Thomson interviewed Talamantes, she told him of concerns that if police were to take her children, they would hurt them, even in graphic detail of “cutting off their heads.”
Dr. Thomson said this ideation of the police potentially harming Talamantes’ children might cause a paradox in her mind of knowing she is not fit to be a parent, yet wanting to protect her children, prompting the tragic murder. Dr. Thomson said, in a nutshell, this type of “paranoia” would essentially be an easily foreseeable set of circumstances where a motive might be created for a mentally sick individual.
Couzens asked Dr. Thomson why Aquelin would then allow the individuals, police officers, the source of her delusion and fear, into her residence for discussion. Couzens also communicated to the jury through the testimony of Dr. Thomson that Thomson was the only one to whom Talamantes expressed her fear of the police.
Thomson also recognized the potential for the embellishment of a mental health condition for legal gain, but did not believe this notion to be applicable to the case at bar. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, borderline personality disorder, instability, and difficulty bonding with people generally is what Dr. Thomson saw in Aquelin. Dr. Thomson’s long testimony ended with conveying that, in order to procure a firm diagnosis of schizophrenia, a six-month observation and treatment period must occur.
Thomson said it was common for concerned family members to initiate doctor visits on behalf of their loved ones suspected of suffering from schizophrenia. Thomson also stated that, although no clear gene exists for predicting the expression of schizophrenia in a person, familial predispositions occur with mental disorders.
Dr. Ryan Hunt, the emergency room physician, was on the stand for less than five minutes and quickly testified about Talamantes’ chief complaint about having her prescriptions refilled. Hunt noted Talamantes’ anxious demeanor on August 20, 2013.
The last few minutes of the afternoon session of People v. Talamantes on May 22, 2014, ended with testimony to the jury from Deborah Mumma. Mumma is a spiritual advisor who frequents the jail scene in the hope of bringing inmates to faith. Mumma said Talamantes wanted to kill herself so that she could be reunited with her daughter. Mumma said Talamantes was receptive to her faith-based teachings.
At the end of the day Judge Mock predicted, based on the remaining testimony, that the jury might begin deliberations as soon as Tuesday, May 27. Please stay tuned to the Vanguard for updates.
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