A Yolo County jury found Daniel Marsh to be sane when he committed the double murder of Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin on April 14, 2013, in Davis.
The jury deliberated for a short time this morning before the verdict was announced just after 1:30 pm. The jury had, last Friday, found Marsh guilty of all charges, including the two murders with enhancements, and special circumstances.
The attorneys both delivered their closing arguments, with Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral going over Dr. Rokop’s testimony, stating that he is an expert while the other doctors were less than knowledgeable in their field.
Mr. Cabral argued that Mr. Marsh was a “very messed up boy” and suffered thoughts for which he had no explanation.
Ron Johnson, Deputy Public Defender, argued that this is not the simple case the prosecution wants the jurors to believe. Dr. Pollack’s report was important because he wanted doctors to know that Mr. Marsh’s medicine needed to be changed. He had warned others about Marsh’s dangerous thoughts but they were ignored. Dr. Merikangas, with impressive credentials, corroborated that Marsh’s medications were causing severe negative side effects. Mr. Johnson pleaded with the jurors to consider his client’s state of mind.
Mr. Cabral, however, firmly believed that Mr. Marsh acted with premeditation and malice of forethought. Marsh bragged about his killings, knew right from wrong and even planned his defense.
Mr. Marsh was old enough to know consequences, Mr. Cabral said, concluding, “Hold him sane.”
Earlier Story: Brief Sanity Hearing Features Contradicting Experts on Marsh
by Antoinnette Borbon
It was very brief but contradictory testimony between experts today, in the case against young Daniel Marsh.
On Friday, a jury of his peers found Daniel Marsh to be guilty of first degree murder, with enhancements and finding special circumstances to be true.
Daniel Marsh, now a 17-year-old boy, is responsible for taking the lives of Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin.
Daniel told FBI Special Agent Chris Campion that, during the early morning hours of April 14, 2013, he checked up to fifty houses before finding an open window at the home of the elderly couple.
Daniel, adorned in black, with ski mask and boots, climbed in the window and walked to the couple’s bedroom. As he stood there watching them sleep, he decided “it was too late to turn back, I knew I had to do something,” he said to Campion.
Prosecutor Mike Cabral told jurors, “Daniel was blood thirsty.” He once again painted a picture for jurors of a young man who was responsible enough for his actions.
But the defense had another explanation for Daniel’s behavior.
Lead Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson told the jurors that “to expect a 14-year-old kid to know why he is feeling this way, having morbid intrusive thoughts, is absurd!”
Johnson said the medication, the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), were worsening Daniel’s already troubled mind.
In today’s testimony, a defense witness was called back to testify about the MRI.
Dr. James Merikangas explained that, when viewing Daniel’s MRI, he found it to be suspect so he had a neurologist look at it. He testified that the neurologist found a gap between brain regions.
Dr. Merikangas said that “he had space in the cortex, reduction, physiological changes in his brain.”
He said there are a lot of things that can cause “too much space, brain tissue loss, but it could be caused from trauma, drugs, alcohol, fever, we don’t know exactly what the cause is.”
But he said this damage can lead to depression and can worsen with the wrong medicine.
Dr. Merikangas stated boldly, “Giving him drugs that are not for kids made his symptoms worse.”
He explained that Daniel’s corpus callosum, that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres, was abnormally shaped. People with abnormal brains are more likely to suffer psychiatric disorders.
The axons, the nerve fibers at the ends of neurons which connect to axons of other neurons, are damaged as well, stated the doctor. This could be from pregnancy. He said if the mother drank during pregnancy it could cause the axons to be damaged.
Dr. Merikangas stated, “Some medications can double the homicidal thoughts, make him worse, and some can make him better.”
Johnson asked Merikangas if it was his opinion that Daniel may have been in a dissociative state on April 14 when he carried out the gruesome act, and the doctor said, “Yes, I believe Daniel had stress factors that overwhelmed him, putting him in a dissociative state during the act.”
He said the combination of depression and stress can cause the episodes of dissociative disorder.
The defense asked the doctor whether it is typical for a person to have intrusive thoughts with the dissociative disorder, and the doctor answered, “Yes, it’s like they are watching a film, they see things played out.”
He stated, “Risk factors such as emotional abuse, trauma, can cause disassociation.”
The prosecution declined to cross-examine the witness.
Dr. James Rokop, a court-appointed psychologist, was called back to testify for the state’s case.
Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Cabral asked Dr. Rokop about testifying to the totality of his findings, but not the insanity/sanity part.
Dr. Rokop reiterated his diagnosis of Daniel to include depression, sexual sadism, cannabis abuse and conduct disorder, but “I did not find psychosis or disassociate disorder.”
He testified that Daniel knew what he was doing, both legally and morally.
“We know this because he planned it, told his friends and tried to conceal the clothing, and he told his friends [that] cops wouldn’t suspect a 15-year-old.”
Dr. Rokop said Daniel wanted to be known as a killer by his friends, so he studied serial killers.
Daniel feared being apprehended and his behavior was logical, stated Rokop.
Daniel had fantasies about killing, Dr. Rokop testified.
It was Dr. Rokop’s opinion that Daniel wanted to change his “M.O.” (modus operandi) and this is why he set out to kill again, but using a bat.
In cross-examination, the defense asked Dr. Rokop why he thinks Daniel believed society would sanction him. “I asked him directly,” the doctor said.
“But wouldn’t telling your friends be more like he wanted them to justify his actions?” Johnson asked.
“Wouldn’t telling his friends make him think they would accept his actions?” added Johnson.
“That’s a complicated question, but yes, I think you’re right, he was shocked at their reaction,” Dr. Rokop replied.
Rokop said there was not a lot of evidence of side effects from medications, but he admitted no other doctors diagnosed Daniel with sexual sadism.
He said it was possible that Daniel could have had side effects, but there was not enough evidence to know.
The prosecution’s last witness was Dr. Deborah Schmidt. She testified to her conclusion that Daniel did know what he was doing. He was able to understand, she said.
Dr. Schmidt explained that Daniel tried concealing evidence, preventing himself from getting caught.
She stated, “Daniel planned it and was determined, this was not a rampage and it’s my opinion that he understood both morally and legally what he did.”
She felt Daniel could control his impulses.
He was able to control his emotional aggression when he felt like killing his best friend, said Schmidt.
“His acts were sadistic,” she said.
In cross, Johnson asked her if she did any research on black box warnings on medication labels, and she replied, “Yes, but I didn’t see any homicidal warnings.”
The sanity phase ended and the trial will resume in the morning with closing arguments.