By Genevieve Ghamian
The trial of Daniel Marsh continued, as Monday morning began with Yolo County Superior Court Judge David Reed ruling that the gory images Daniel posted on the Tumblr website were not admissible. Judge Reed decided that the images would not be shown to the jury, but statements – and not prejudicial images – from the website were admissible.
Testimony resumed with Dr. James Rokop, the psychologist appointed by the court to assess Daniel for a determination of NGI, not guilty by reason of insanity. Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson questioned Rokop about Daniel’s statements that Rokop felt were inconsistent with Daniel’s behavior.
Rokop testified that Daniel had told him that, during the period of January through June of 2013, his mood and grades were getting worse. In contrast, Rokop stated that Dr. He’s notes stated Daniel was improving. When Johnson asked if that could be because Daniel’s mother was in the room when Daniel saw Dr. He, Rokop admitted it could have impacted the visit. Rokop confirmed that Daniel’s therapist and the King’s View’s notes said Daniel was getting worse.
Daniel told Rokop he had started having dreams of killing people around 14 years of age. Rokop found previous interviews where Daniel had said he was 10 years old when the dreams began. Rokop confirmed that the previous interviews stated that Daniel’s dreams started to get more frequent when he was 14 years old. In one specific interview, Rokop stated that Daniel told the interviewer he wanted to kill people. Daniel began to enjoy the dreams after the April 2013 killings. At the time of Rokop’s interview, Daniel was still having dreams of killing, but he did not enjoy them.
The defense began asking Rokop some general questions regarding Daniel’s statements to Rokop about the prescribed medications. About six months after Daniel started taking Zoloft, he was asking for an increase in the medication to decrease the violent thoughts and dreams. Rokop said Daniel never complained that the medications were causing the thoughts, only that he needed more of the drug.
Rokop agreed with Mr. Johnson’s statement that Daniel’s asking for more medications could be an indicator of more symptoms and that he wanted relief. Rokop contradicted this statement, however, by saying that, in the case of the Prozac given for Daniel’s eating disorder, Daniel may have liked the way Prozac made him feel. Rokop was not sure if that was because he stopped having the eating disorder while on Prozac, or maybe it was a stimulant for Daniel.
Daniel told Rokop he felt “way better off the antidepressants.” Rokop said that Daniel’s urges and his thinking are different. Daniel told Rokop he was surprised and scared that he was not affected by his victims’ pleas. Daniel said his “bad conscious was in full effect and he had no mercy” at the time of the killings.
Rokop reviewed the Kaiser record stating Daniel’s mother hounded him to get off Prozac, even though Daniel liked it and she was taking it herself. Rokop read other statements where Daniel said he did not like being on Prozac. Johnson pointed out the statement that Daniel did not like Prozac in May of 2012 when he was accidentally being prescribed Prozac and another SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) at the same time. Rokop responded with, “Medication is very complex in this case.”
Rokop questioned Daniel’s compliance with taking medication, yet Daniel stated over and over again that he wanted more medication to make the depression and thoughts go away. Daniel did not seem to understand that the medication could be causing the disturbing thoughts; he just wanted help.
Rokop stated he had general knowledge of antidepressants and the “black box warnings.” Rokop was aware the medications could cause suicide, aggression and irritability.
Rokop does not think Daniel has obsessive-compulsive disorder. Even though Daniel did not want to be plagued by visions of gory images in the beginning and used marijuana to “calm his thoughts,” Rokop stated Daniel eventually got joy from the gory images he sought. They became interests and preoccupations. Daniel was “giving into the thoughts.” Rokop assumed Daniel would masturbate to the grotesque images he posted on Tumblr.
Rokop explained that Daniel was desensitized to the violent images and acts. Daniel was shocked that his friend turned him in; his friends watched the videos with him and never said it was wrong. This made Daniel believe it was normal behavior and was desired by his friends as well as him. This is illustrated by his statement, “I did it, I’m a murderer, a killer.” He was excited to display to his friends a manifestation of a belief they shared together.
Rokop explained that auditory and visual hallucinations have not been encountered as medication side effects in his practice. Some literature states it is possible, but Rokop believes Daniel’s were caused by lack of sleep, marijuana, watching gore and exposing himself to violence. Rokop believes Daniel was imagining the violent images, not hallucinating, and claimed Daniel was simply making them up as a defense. Johnson pointed out that Daniel was having these violent images daily and they were documented by King’s View and the eating disorder hospital. Daniel has stated he is no longer having the violent images.
Rokop noted that Daniel watched documentaries about serial killers. Daniel seemed to admire serial killers and seemed to share some characteristics with them. Rokop said Daniel was identifying with being a serial killer and with the gory images he viewed.
Daniel said he had attempted suicide four times. Rokop suspected the reports were too accurate. Daniel was too consistent with the previous reports of suicide, like he had an agenda. Johnson pointed out that they were documented in other records and Daniel had nothing to gain by talking about them, except help for his depression.
Johnson pointed out other inconsistencies, including Daniel’s poor sleep in custody – just because jail personnel viewed Daniel lying in bed does not mean he was asleep.
Rokop did not believe Daniel’s giggling and euphoria at the time of the crime was cause by manic depression. Rokop does believe that all people experience depersonalization and derealization at times. And he said that Daniel may have experienced cognitive slippage (loss of touch with reality) at times.
Dr. Deborah Schmidt took the stand in the afternoon. She is a self-employed licensed psychologist with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, two master’s degrees and a PhD in clinical psychology. She was appointed to do a psychological evaluation of Daniel on July 14, 2014. Schmidt administered three psychological tests and spent four hours and 20 minutes with Daniel.
Daniel told Schmidt he heard whispers telling him to do things and saw a person in a black hood pointing to a dead person.
Schmidt was concerned that Daniel had told her at the beginning of the interview that he had a hard time remembering things from December 2012 through June 2013. Throughout the interview he was able to remember things in that time period, so she was confused about the purpose of the original statement.
Schmidt described Daniel as “emotionally neglected.” His parents weren’t there for him, his mom’s new relationship caused him trauma and he did not get along with his sister.
Schmidt described Daniel’s obsessive compulsive disorder as brushing his teeth for a specified amount of time, taping his hands a specific amount of times and counting his calories.
Daniel described his childhood as “mostly bad,” back and forth between parent’s homes. His father had an explosive temper and was on a lot of pain medications. His father was not involved with Daniel, and he lay about while Daniel played piano and video games in his room. The father got tired of Daniel coming home drunk and high, so he kicked him out. Daniel went to live with his mom who had fewer rules and did not realize he was taking drugs.
Seeing his father almost die, and the slow, nonchalant actions of the medical personnel, upset Daniel.
His friend committing suicide additionally upset Daniel.
Daniel described having two close friends and four girlfriends. The first girlfriend cheated on him with seven guys and “treated him like s—.” The second lived in his house and took care of his mother. She cheated with his best friend. The third cheated twice with friends. The fourth “treated him like s—” in the end.
Daniel did well in school until 10th grade when he stopped caring because he didn’t think he would live to be 20 years old. Daniel felt he would commit suicide by then.
Daniel described his four suicide attempts as lying on the train tracks, refusing to eat, binge drinking for three weeks and an overdose of his mom’s morphine and Dilantin.
Daniel described the killings and the day of his arrest to Schmidt. She noted that Daniel smiled when he spoke of cutting the victims.
Schmidt saw similarities in some of the crime details with those from specific serial killers and asked Daniel about it. Daniel described the research he had done on serial killers.
Daniel told Schmidt how his girlfriend and his friend Alvaro each chuckled when he told them about putting objects in the bodies of the victims.
Daniel said he sneaked into his girlfriend’s house through the doggie door one time because he wanted to get back with her. Daniel did not know she was scared of him.
Schmidt described Daniel as feeling better the week after the murder, but the urges returned stronger than ever. Daniel told Alvaro he would kill him if he ever got together with Daniel’s girlfriend.
Daniel said he killed the raccoon because his mother told him to.
Schmidt felt Daniel’s results on the tests were unreliable because his answers displayed an elevated number of symptoms. Schmidt stated the tests showed that Daniel had depression, general anxiety disorder, some obsessive-compulsive disorder, conduct disorder, poly substance dependence and antisocial/sadistic traits.
Schmidt felt that if Daniel had disorganized thinking or severe psychopathy he would not have been able to fill out the testing materials.
The final witness of the day was Brent Buehring from the Yolo County District Attorney’s office. Buehring is a high-technology investigator and he described receiving numerous phones and computers to review for this case. He will be called back to the stand tomorrow morning.