My View: Marsh and Juvenile Brain Development

This week a Yolo County jury took a couple of hours to convict Daniel Marsh of the April 2013 double homicide of Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin. This was not a close call, as the very brief deliberation indicated (indeed, Marco Topete’s guilt phase deliberations were far longer), and under existing law it is hard to fault a jury.

The next step will begin on Monday and that is the question as to whether Mr. Marsh was legally sane at the time that he committed the crime – for all intents and purposes that focuses on the notion of whether Mr. Marsh knew right from wrong at the time the crime was committed.

Nevertheless, I want to focus on two specific and related aspects of the case that trouble me. The confession by Mr. Marsh continues to trouble me, as does the notion that a juvenile can be tried as an adult due to the heinous nature of the crime and the maturity and sophistication that Mr. Marsh showed – at times, well beyond his years.

Research has shown that juveniles are far more likely – perhaps as high as four times more likely – to falsely confess to a crime. The National Registry of Exonerations provides data to back up this research, noting, as an article in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel wrote last year, “Youth are more naive, trusting, fearful and more easily misled. Investigators can more easily suggest to juveniles that they face harsher consequences if they don’t confess, and much lesser consequences if they do. After hours of interrogation, studies have shown, many youthful suspects will conform their stories to cues from detectives, believing they can then finally go home.”

We see this at play during the confession when Mr. Marsh at times wanted to leave, and at times wanted his attorney or his parents present, but was denied all of those. In a hearing this past spring, Judge Reed allowed the confession, but we can see the problems.

Veteran FBI Special Agent Chris Campion repeatedly told Daniel that he was his healer: “Now, Daniel, this is your time to heal, I am here to heal you, this is your refuge.” That we have no reason to believe Mr. Marsh falsely confessed hardly excuses the handling of the interrogation. As we have noted in the past, confessions are so powerful that there are many examples where juries actually ignored exculpatory evidence provided by the defense and instead focused on the confession.

The susceptibility of juveniles highlights the other troubling aspect of this case – that just because a juvenile commits a heinous crime, the juvenile has the same culpability as an adult in the same situation. The law currently only prevents the death penalty and life without parole for juvenile offenders, but research on brain development is rapidly emerging.

In 2002, the US Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia, “[They] frequently know the difference between right and wrong and are competent to stand trial. Because of their impairments, however, by definition they have diminished capacities to understand and process mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others…. Their deficiencies do not warrant an exemption from criminal sanctions, but they do diminish their personal culpability.”

That was the 2002 US Supreme Court ruling banning the execution of the mentally retarded, period. But the same factors apply to juveniles.

In a 2004 publication on Juvenile Justice and the Death Penalty, the American Bar Association put out a report entitled, “Adolescence, Brain Development and Legal Culpability.”

The research in that publication is now ten years old, but they noted, “Adolescence is a transitional period during which a child is becoming, but is not yet, an adult. An adolescent is at a crossroads of changes where emotions, hormones, judgment, identity and the physical body are so in flux that parents and even experts struggle to fully understand.

“As a society, we recognize the limitations of adolescents and, therefore, restrict their privileges to vote, serve on a jury, consume alcohol, marry, enter into contracts, and even watch movies with mature content. Each year, the United States spends billions of dollars to promote drug use prevention and sex education to protect youth at this vulnerable stage of life. When it comes to the death penalty, however, we treat them as fully functioning adults.”

That last part has since changed, as we learn more and more about the juvenile brain.

The report cites research such as that by Dr. Elizabeth Sowell of UCLA, where it was found “that the frontal lobe undergoes far more change during adolescence than at any other stage of life. It is also the last part of the brain to develop, which means that even as they become fully capable in other areas, adolescents cannot reason as well as adults: ‘[m]aturation, particularly in the frontal lobes, has been shown to correlate with measures of cognitive functioning.’ ”

Failure to recognize this point appears to be a mistake that was made in the evidence suppression hearing, by less than expert witnesses, on juvenile brain development.

The report also cites Jay Giedd, a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, who explains that during adolescence, the “part of the brain that is helping organization, planning and strategizing is not done being built yet…. It’s sort of unfair to expect [adolescents] to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision making before their brain is finished being built.”

Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, PhD at Harvard University’s brain imaging lab, wrote, “Just because they’re physically mature, they may not appreciate the consequences or weigh information the same way as adults do. So, [although] somebody looks physically mature, their brain may in fact not be mature.”

There is a growing body of research that shows that human brains are in fact not fully developed until age 25.

Dr. David Fassler, a psychiatry professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, has testified before legislative committees on brain development and views the research as an explanation rather than an excuse of teen behavior.

He said, “It doesn’t mean adolescents can’t make rational decisions or appreciate the difference between right and wrong. But it does mean that, particularly when confronted with stressful or emotional circumstances, they are more likely to act impulsively, on instinct, without fully understanding or considering the consequences of their actions.”

Mark Osler, a law professor and a former federal prosecutor in Detroit, argues that the science that is emerging suggests that we need to continue to look at juveniles differentially from adults.  Science has shown that the brain of teenagers is still unformed.

“[The teenage brain] essentially is different from what adult brains are,” he continued.  “Essentially that means if we’re making a judgment about a 14-year-old… we’re not looking at the same brain that’s going to emerge later.”

On the other hand, as some readers have rightly pointed out, everyone has been a teenager, most teenagers do not commit crimes and even troubled teens like Daniel Marsh rarely commit a heinous double murder.

However, as we as a society learn more about the human brain development, it means we have to re-think the lines of culpability. We are not talking about excusing bad behavior. Rather, we are talking about understanding it and figuring out an appropriate response.

Now-troubled Senator Leland Yee authored Senate Bill 9 which Governor Brown signed in 2012, to end life without parole for juvenile offenders.

“SB 9 holds youth responsible for their actions, but also creates a strong system of checks and balances that provides a chance for young offenders to prove they have changed – both to a judge and to a parole board,” said George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney and former San Francisco Police Chief.

“As a law enforcement professional for over 30 years, I know first-hand the importance of protecting our communities and ensuring that individuals who commit serious offenses are sentenced appropriately,” said Mr. Gascón. “However, I also recognize the high costs of incarcerating youth who are sentenced to LWOP [life without parole] – as much as $90 million per year nationwide – and the ability of young people to reform their behavior and be rehabilitated as they mature.  That is why I am urging the Governor to sign SB 9 into law.”

“Children do not have adult levels of judgment, impulse control, or ability to assess risks, and researchers estimate that many will not reach full adult cognitive development until the age of 25,” said Carl Wicklund, Executive Director of the American Probation and Parole Association. “Therefore, it is irresponsible to impose an irrevocable sentence on youth who still have the ability to grow and develop positively.”

Governor Brown signed the legislation to end “LWOP,” but the question that future legislators must grapple with is how much further away from LWOP that line should be drawn.

Under Senate Bill 9, courts could review cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole after 15 years, potentially allowing some individuals to receive a new minimum sentence of 25 years to life. The bill would require the offender to show remorse and be working toward rehabilitation in order to submit a petition for consideration of the new sentence.

However, for Daniel Marsh, that means a minimum of 50 years in prison, and he could be in his 60’s when he is first eligible for parole for a crime committed at age 15.

“No one can predict who a teen will be at age 40,” said Elizabeth Calvin, senior children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch and author of the report, “When I Die, They’ll Send Me Home.” “When California sentences a 16-year-old to die in prison, the state ignores what science, parents and teachers have long known: young people have tremendous potential to change, grow, and mature.”

Some people have already decided that Daniel Marsh can never be released safely into the population, whether he is found to have been sane or insane, but we don’t really know that and we don’t know what future innovations will develop in the next 20 to 40 years.

It might be better if we had the ability to treat these situations on a case-by-case basis.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts


  1. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > Research has shown that juveniles are far more likely – perhaps as
    > high as four times more likely to falsely confess to a crime.

    Has there been any “research” on 15 year olds being “four times more likely to falsely confess to MURDER”. I believe the overall statistic is accurate, but the fact that a large number of 6 year old “juveniles” falsely confess to minor crimes does not mean that we have a large number of 14-18 year olds telling the cops they KILLED someone…

    > We see this at play during the confession where Mr. Marsh at times wanted to leave

    What is “this” (that is at play)? Do you think the police got a false confession out of Marsh? (before they got him to “falsely” confess to friends and then set him up by hiding bloody clothes at his parents house)…

    1. David Greenwald

      Generally speaking a six year old would not be asked to confess, we’re mainly dealing with 13 to 17 year olds.

      I stated that they did not get a false confession in this case at least twice.

      1. South of Davis

        David wrote:

        > I stated that they did not get a false confession in this case at least twice.

        But did not answer my question about the “this” he is talking about (that he says was “in play”) while Marsh was questioned…

    2. Elizabeth Bowler

      Yes, there has been a lot written about juvenile false confessions as this review article suggests. Juveniles have different understandings of and response to interrogation techniques used by law enforcement (in particular deception) than adults do, which has resulted in calls to abolish deception completely in the interrogation of juveniles.

      1. South of Davis

        Elizabeth wrote:

        > Yes, there has been a lot written about juvenile false confessions

        We all know that there are false confessions (and racism), but to bring it up EVERY time there is a confession (or person of color is arrested) without leading in with “I don’t believe this case had a false confession (or racism)” leads people to believe that you think that “this case” did have a false confession (or was motivated by racism)…

      2. KonaOhana

        No one seems to be taking into account this boy was just 15 @ the time of the murders. Also he was on psychotropic medications that drastically altered his consciousness. Thus even at the age of 15 his mind was in a serotonin state of an awaken dream. Called a nightmare taking over ones awareness, per both Dr Ann Blake Tracy & Dr Peter Breggin both psychiatric specialists.
        In this state of mind any questioning should have NEVER been allowed. This state of consciousness is said to be like being on Lsd which is also a serotonin state of consciousness.
        Imagine your a child given a drug that effects you like Lsd then your told by several doctors at Kaiser this is all normal. No matter what he told the doctors they ignored him. He may have been afraid they’d lock him up if they truly understood just how far out he was getting. I don’t know.
        But knowing the effects of these drugs on approximately 1/3 of those under 25 yrs this case should have been handled with the medical issues at the forefront not the objective to prosecute or “win” the case by the DA.
        The deceased Mr Oliver Northrup was well aware of these issues concerning the youths in our world. He spent the majority of his career fighting for their protection and rights. These absurd irony of this case is if he & his wife were not the victims his career objectives indicate he would have been fighting for the right approach to this terribly misguided situation.
        This boys life and treatment has failed him on all levels, medical professionals, the focus of the courts & laws, his parents & friends.
        I pray the jury sees this young boy needs help not imprisonment and the abuse mental, physical & sexual these prisons provide for the next 50 yrs.
        Read the to educated yourselves and our community to hopefully stop any further lives list or ruined by these SSRI drugs.

  2. Tia Will

    “On the other hand, as some readers have rightly pointed out, everyone has been a teenager, most teenagers do not commit crimes and even troubled teens like Daniel Marsh rarely commit heinous double murder.”

    The statement that most teenagers do not commit crimes is true. It is also completely irrelevant since our legal system dictates that each case be decided individually on its own merits. I do not believe that anyone is arguing that it was not Daniel Marsh who committed the murders. What I do hear is many, including myself arguing that his age and apparent illness are mitigating factors which should determine the site of his isolation from society be in a state mental institution where he can obtain appropriate psychiatric treatment as it becomes available as opposed to a prison, where whether we want to admit it or not, that is simply not going to occur.

  3. SODA

    A question that I should have asked before: Why was a FBI agent the one to interrogate Daniel initially?
    Perhaps it would be informative if the DV could describe the two (or more?) options that are open for Daniel depending on the sanity verdict: life in prison (juvenille until a certain age, then adult? What mental health services are available? VS psych hospital such as Vacaville?
    Could DV reserach this ? I feel like Tia that there is little to no value in sentencing him to reguar prison.

    1. Elizabeth Bowler

      If Marsh is found NGI he will be committed to a maximum security state hospital such as Atascadero, Patton or the forensic unit at Napa State Hospital. If he is not found NGI he will be committed to state prison once he turns 18 (prior to turning 18 he will be held in a juvenile facility). There are psychiatric services available in prison including the acute psychiatric unit within the prison at Vacaville, but it is still prison.

    2. Elizabeth Bowler

      I should add that those of us who have extensive experience working in both settings, prison and state hospital, agree with Tia that the state hospital would be far better for Marsh. Unfortunately, Marsh’s well-being is irrelevant in the sanity phase of the trial and he will be placed in one setting or the other depending upon whether or not he is found to meet the legal insanity standard.

      1. Tia Will

        “Marsh’s well-being is irrelevant in the sanity phase of the trial and he will be placed in one setting or the other depending upon whether or not he is found to meet the legal insanity standard.”

        Unfortunately it would appear to me that Mr. Marsh’s well-being has always been considered “irrelevant” and that I consider this a moral failing of our system. It is absolutely true that the acts committed are heinous and that our society should be protected from this individual ever committing such acts again. There are two ways to achieve this. One way has some possibility of caring for Mr. Marsh to the best of the ability of the science of the time, which could certainly change significantly over his anticipated life span. That option is of hospitalization.
        The second option is prison. As I believe Dr. Canning is explaining, the levels of care are not even close.
        So the critical question is not whether or not we are going to segregate Mr. Marsh from the rest of society. That has already been decided.
        The question is are we now going to abandon this young man to our admittedly barbaric warehousing system called prison, or are we going to provide as much help as possible to an obviously very ill individual ? This to me is not a judgement of Mr. Marsh, but a judgement on how we as a society are willing to first neglect and then punish our adolescents for actions based on circumstances which may well have been beyond their control.

        1. Elizabeth Bowler

          I completely agree, Tia. The levels of care in prison and state hospital are very different with a state hospital providing much more treatment than is available in prison. It certainly does not speak well of us as a society that we treat the mentally ill and children in this manner. Both Talamantes and Marsh would be better off in a state hospital, but I am afraid that we are likely to see the same outcome in this trial that we saw in the Talamantes case.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          Are the prisons barbaric? I think overcrowding is an issue, but liberals have consistently blocked new prison construction for decades, and continually push for more crimes to be de-criminalized. FWIW, Gascon is pretty far left.

          Prisons are divided along racial lines, though this is another area where liberals have fought reality, which has lead to prison riots and attacks. His youth and size would work against him as he will now be the target. He is in for a rude awakening. I heard the stories as a youth, and it was a motivating factor for some in not choosing to commit crimes… we knew the consequences of prison.

  4. Elizabeth Bowler

    I appreciate this article David, as I believe that the aspects of this case pertaining to Marsh’s status as a juvenile have received relatively little attention. I am concerned that he will now have an adult standard for “insanity” applied to him.

    1. Robert Canning

      I agree with Elizabeth. I think it is easy to overlook the part development and brain growth play in situations like this. It’s very easy to dismiss Daniel as evil or a psychopath, but I believe these are simply inadequate explanations (which is what these cases beg for). The complexities of his problems go beyond simple diagnostic categories or legal definitions. The legal system seems such a blunt instrument in these cases and the outcomes often leave me (and probably others) unsatisfied – both for the perpetrators and the victims and their families.

      If he is (and I believe it is likely unless something amazing happens this week) sentenced to prison, and once he turns 18 he will be received at Deuel Vocational Institution Reception Center (or possibly San Quentin RC) and be there for 60-90 days before going to a “mainline” prison. CDCR will look at his case factors (what was the crime, what demographic factors contribute, previous criminal history) and “classify” him as Level I to Level IV, which determines what prisons he can go to. His mental health needs will be assessed by mental health staff and he will be assigned a primary clinician and possibly a psychiatrist and depending on how serious his mental health problems are at the time of evaluation, assigned to a level of care, which also plays into his placement in the prison system (not all prisons have all levels of care). He will have a treatment team that meets with him periodically to update a treatment plan. His clinicians will meet with him regularly. If he needs hospitalization he can go to the Acute Psychiatric Program or the Intermediate Treatment Program at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville (run by the Department of State Hospitals).

      Security in state prison is provided by custody officers who have little training in mental health issues and see themselves as peace officers (which they are). They have the ability to apply differing levels of force when trouble breaks out from physical force to deadly force (rare these days). They carry pepper spray and are allowed to use it in situations of imminent threat. Prisons in the CDCR are surrounded by a lethal electric fence. And at bottom, it’s prison – monotonous, dangerous, and bleak.

      If he was found insane at the time of the crime, he would be sent to a state hospital. State hospitals are licensed psychiatric facilities rather than prisons. There are no “guards” or custodial personnel in state hospitals. Individuals are identified as patients (more likely these days “individuals” or “consumers” given the recovery model in place). They are assigned a treatment team which also develops a treatment plan (called a Wellness and Recovery plan) and includes his input into the details. Security in state hospital forensic units is provided by a small contingent of hospital police and when incidents happen, by overwhelming numbers of psychiatric technicians. There is a fence around the forensic units in state hospitals, but nothing like state prisons.

      1. KonaOhana

        The outcome is bleak in either case. It’s my opinion from what I’ve read and heard in court is that this case should have NEVER been tried as an adult. Nor the confession allowed due to his mental state.
        It appears this aspect was rushed to judgement do to the fact the deceased were very well know in the Legal isles of the community and their was a huge anger that overwhelmed the rational thought. It seems to me if the unfortunate victims had been unknown by large and not 40 or so years inside the Legal system locally then a much more rational approach would have been taken.
        The legal system needs to have a more rational & medical research aspect to it. This isn’t the wild west any longer.

        1. Tia Will


          I am in agreement that the drivers behind the way that this case has been handled are emotional rather than rational. I also have expressed my dismay over the tactics used by the interrogator in obtaining the confession ( regardless of its accuracy).

          However, I would take a much more cautious view with regard to the issue of the SSRIs. As I have posted previously, the SSRI story is complicated. Anecdotes are clearly inadequate in assessing the utility and safety of these medications. To base a decision on anecdotes would mean that you would also have to count every successful intervention such as my son’s. To completely ban the entire group of antidepressants that you previously cited would be to deprive many of a medication that is very helpful to them. This is as extreme a position as is that of the large pharmaceutical companies who have relentlessly attempted to extend the use of the medications while downplaying side effects. Neither extreme position serves patients well.

  5. Robert Canning

    SODA – there are only two choices where Daniel is confined at this point for: A Department of State Hospitals facility such as Napa State Hospital, or a state prison. If the jury finds him insane at the time of the crime, the judge will commit him to the care of the Department of State Hospitals. If he is found not insane at the time of the crime, he will be sentenced to state prison.

    1. SODA

      Thanks Robert. just what I was asking for 🙂
      I am surprised that state prison will include psych eval and some treatment albeit not as focused, integrated or complete as state hospital system.

  6. Anon

    In order to be found guilty by reason of insanity means the defendant did not know right from wrong, or did not know the nature and quality of the act. Actions that will negate an insanity defense include attempts to evade capture and pre-planning of the crime. Also note “a person whose mental disorder is not in dispute is determined to be sane if the court decides that despite a “mental illness” the defendant was responsible for the acts committed and will be treated in court as a normal defendant”.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “Actions that will negate an insanity defense include attempts to evade capture and pre-planning of the crime.”

      i’m pretty sure that hinkley’s actions were premeditated and yet he was found to be legally insane. so i’m not sure you are correct on that point.

  7. DavisBurns

    “. He will have a treatment team that meets with him periodically to update a treatment plan. His clinicians will meet with him regularly. If he needs hospitalization he can go to the Acute Psychiatric Program or the Intermediate Treatment Program at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.”

    Wonder if this is similar to the level of treatment he got in high school. He had an IEP team that included a school psychologist, special ed teachers, someone from administration, both parents or an advocate and Daniel. He had a private psychiatrist, and mental health professional at Kaiser and access to mental hospital.

    My point is, just because there is a “team” and alleged services doesn’t mean he gets the attention he needs.

    I wonder that they didn’t bring up his classification as seriously emotionally disturbed by the school system. It isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis it certainly describes Daniel.

    (i) Emotional disturbance means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a
    child ’s educational performance:

    (A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
    (B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
    (C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
    (D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
    (E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
    (ii) Emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance under paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section.

    1. Tia Will


      “B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
      (C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
      (D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
      (E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.”

      It would seem that Daniel meets all of these criteria from the evidence presented.
      I also am surprised that the defense did not make more of the evidence for the possibility of an undiagnosed seizure disorder. The evidence as I see it is the following :
      1. Family history of seizure disorder ( his mother)
      2. Witnessed episodes ( at least two) of unresponsiveness lasting several minutes which could be consistent with seizure activity
      3. Reporting to at least one provider “out of body sensations” which can be one of the manifestations of what used to be called temporal lobe epilepsy
      I may have missed some of the reporting, especially since I was out of town, however, I am concerned that what the jury has not had presented fully is the possibility that his actions might have been based on a definable neuro-electrical disturbance which indeed might not have been under his control.

  8. Frankly

    Did he falsely confess to the crime? Nope. So then why is that point being made? Criminal justice should be some board game where the rules of the game are more important that the needs of humanity.

    Recent studies using brain scanning technology has determined that the frontal lobes of humans does not fully develop until the mid-30s. And in male it can be longer. The frontal lobe is responsible for planning and decision-making. Younger people, especially younger male, suffer the lack of capacity for detailed planning and decision-making.

    This was not a “I made a mistake in the heat of the moment” crime. This was a crime that required planning and execution. There were several connected decisions that needed to be made. From all indication, Marsh was one of the lucky few with a more developed frontal lobe. He was and is much more adult-like than are most people his age.

    Either this young man is insane or he is evil. But the point here is the punishment for the fact that he willfully executed to beautiful and wonderful people. He took away their lives. He severely harmed all their family and friends because of what he took from them.

    He needs to pay the price.

    I have empathy for him and his family, but when you do the crime, you must pay the price. Just consider his punishment as being part of the overall terrible circumstance he caused.

    And it really is as simple as that.

    1. Anon

      Depends on what you mean by “insane”. I am assuming you mean legally insane? He can have severe mental problems and still be found legally sane if it can be shown he knew right from wrong or knew the nature and quality of his acts.

    2. Davis Progressive

      “Did he falsely confess to the crime? Nope. So then why is that point being made? ”

      i think the point is being made because the tactics used here are problematic. it is akin to running into the middle of the traffic – it is not a wise action even if you end up not being hit by a car.

      “This was a crime that required planning and execution. ”

      that’s not clear. he randomly found the victims through happenstance. he may have thought about killing before, but it’s not clear to me how much of it was planned out.

      “the point here is the punishment for the fact that he willfully executed to beautiful and wonderful people. He took away their lives. He severely harmed all their family and friends because of what he took from them.”

      he absolutely did. what’s in question is what the appropriate punishment for that is given the other circumstances. you act as though there is an agreed upon and concrete answer to that question when in reality those standards are changing.

    3. Elizabeth Bowler

      “From all indication, Marsh was one of the lucky few with a more developed frontal lobe. He was and is much more adult-like than are most people his age.”

      I must have missed this. Was there expert testimony that his frontal lobes are “more developed” than others his age?

      1. KonaOhana

        In fact the report from the only real professional Dr Merikangas stated Daniel’s brain was damaged by birth issues caused by lack of oxygen during delivery. Further the drugs prescribed by the Kaiser doctors caused damage to the brain. The damage is caused by the SSRI’S he was taking at these same doctors orders. He repeatedly expressed the frightening thoughts as well as the lid off his ability to control these thoughts.
        Let’s not confuse intelligence with ones ability or wisdom as it appears you are. This boy is just that a 15 yr old being drugged with chemicals dangerous for adults and labeled not recommended for ANYONE under 25 yrs. These treating psychiatrists obviously failed this boy.
        Try reading at least a few of the thousands of reports of both murder & suicide caused by these drugs worldwide at Or
        The prosecution’s doctor is not a specialist. As it turned out he’s an employee of Eli Lilly as a consultant earning over 75% of his annual earnings from them. Plus up to $30,000 to testify at each trial. That being usually three or more per year. Therefore, his testimony is as a representative of Eli Lilly not an independent unbiased doctor.
        Don’t forget that each doctor from Kaiser came to court with their own MALPRACTICE atty. The defense atty made the incompetence of these doctors clear during their testimony. Not one spoke to the other or read Daniel’s records prior to treatment.
        Let’s not forget that the records shows he was a normal award winning teenage until Kaiser began to poison him.

    4. KonaOhana

      It’s not only about if one did the crime etc etc .What must be of paramount importance to an educated society is the full understanding of why. That’s the reasoning for the law.
      This case has been rife with misconceived concepts beliefs and missteps. It should not about punishment & revenge re: old treatment law. it should be about proper treatment for ANYONE and everyone to be given a balanced defence based on clear medical and legal and compassionate understanding. Not the age old cowboy gang em high approach. This especially true of such a young person. The teen brain cooked in a stew of serotonin causing psychosis beyond the vast majority of normal cases at least unless the use of seritoneric psychotropics are so badly administered. I’ll strongly suggest you look into the hundred of stories of events like this on there are literally thousands of cases like this within our world yearly. This ignorance must be stopped. my intention is to warn so these murders and suicides can be stopped. Bring BIGPHARMA to a STOP.

  9. Tia Will


    “And it really is as simple as that.”
    No, it is no where near as simple as that. Would you say the same if the perpetrator were 10 or 12 ? If not, why not ?
    Do you never believe that there are extenuating circumstances ? What would you consider as extenuating ?
    What about a possible biologic component ? His mother has been reported as having a seizure disorder ? He has been witnessed having and has described himself as having “out of body” time intervals. Doesn’t matter to you that this could have been some manifestation of a neurologic disorder ?
    Do you truly believe that one is either legal insane or “evil” with no other potential influences on one’s ability to discern right from wrong ?
    Do you not believe that it is possible to be able to discern right from wrong in some circumstances but not in others ? What about the ability of certain drugs to alter ones perceptions or lower inhibitions ? Non existent in your world ?

    “I have empathy for him”
    That is very difficult to believe based on your posts.

    “He needs to pay the price.”
    And why could that “price” not be payed by a placement in a state mental hospital in which he could both pay the price of loss of liberty, and be treated appropriately as the seriously ill individual that he certainly is ?

    ““Did he falsely confess to the crime? Nope. So then why is that point being made? ”
    It is being made because of what I consider to be unethical behavior on the part of the FBI agent who was egregiously lying, not allowing requested presence of family or a lawyer, emotionally manipulative. I do not believe that these behaviors should be allowed with the single exception I stated. I do not believe that immoral actions or statements should be part of our legal system which is why I have reiterated it. Hopefully that is now clear.

  10. tj

    “Cunning” and “sophisticated” were used by the DA to describe Daniel. And they referred to Daniel as “this man”! Hardly.

    There’s nothing sophisticated about keeping the bloody evidence, or telling your on and off again “friends” what you did.
    There’s nothing sophisticated or adult about talking to law enforcement without an attorney, especially after his stint in the police dept.’s youth law enforcement training group.

    Daniel had overwhelming, terrifying, intrusive thoughts in his head from the age of 10 to the day of the crime, 5 years.
    Imagine having a migraine every day for 5 years. One would hardly feel sane.

    Daniel’s history of killing animals wasn’t given much attention by his parents or professionals, but it should have been a big red flag that he was very seriously mentally ill. It also indicates there were times when he didn’t know right from wrong.

    The DV makes a good point that sanity in adults is different than sanity in children. Daniel’s brain was probably 15 years shy of being fully developed, esp in the decision making area – understanding his illnesses, getting good help, etc.

  11. tj

    One wonders what stress or trauma occurred when Daniel was 10 years old that activated his illness.

    His parents appear to have been less than supportive of regular and serious counseling. It gives the feeling of a family with secrets.

  12. Robin W.

    According to Dr Canning’s post, there are no guards or security personnel in the state mental hospitals. That alone makes it clear to me that Marsh needs to be in the mental health section of a prison, not in a state mental hospital. Is there anyone out there who does not believe this guy is dangerous?

    1. Tia Will

      Actually, what I said was that there are state hospital police and lots of psychiatric technicians. The units are not “open” units that one can simply walk on and off of – they are locked units. There is a also a large perimeter fence around the forensic units at Napa and this fence is patrolled. To my knowledge Napa has very, very few elopements (I don’t know numbers). To enter the forensic units at Napa one has to go through a guarded entry. Atascadero has a stronger perimeter with “shaker” alarms. Most of the patients at Atascadero are sent there on parole from CDCR as mentally disordered offenders. There are small populations of NGRI patients. He would likely go to Napa.

      Let’s talk about dangerousness. This is an adolescent with no criminal history, serious psychiatric problems, and one very heinous crime. He is unpredictable and has committed violent, vicious acts. In a state hospital setting he would be on units with people with long criminal records and mental disorders. His chances of committing a similar act are probably pretty low, based on our current knowledge of these sorts of things. He is certainly a criminal but does not appear to have a criminal mind. He appears to have seriously disordered thinking, emotions, and reasoning. From what has been written he has significant treatment needs and maybe he is getting some treatment at Juvenile Hall. I don’t believe, based on what has been written, that he is “evil” (whatever that means), and I don’t know what his base personality characteristics are like, although some on the Vanguard have suggested he is a psychpath. He is only 17 and still developing.

    2. Elizabeth Bowler

      He has already been incarcerated for almost a year and a half and I have heard nothing to suggest that he has presented any significant security problems to anyone. However, if he were found NGI and there were significant security concerns, he could easily be housed at Patton State Hospital or Atascadero State Hospital, both of which maximum security forensic institutions.

  13. Tia Will

    Robin W.

    “Is there anyone out there who does not believe this guy is dangerous?”
    No, there appears to be no one who does not believe that Daniels is dangerous.
    Perhaps you have been fortunate enough to never have anyone you care about confined in the lock down portion of a mental hospital. If you had, you would know that the people so confined are kept under high security. The absence of guards such as those found in prisons does not mean that the facilities are not secure.

  14. Antoinnette

    First off, great article David….thanks!

    It encouraged me to research what GOD has to say about the subject. Realizing that this is a religious stand point of course, still thought it to be of great value to hear.

    The Bible instructs on any and everything pertaining to life, this is in short what God thinks of our children and their mindset.

    This is a summary of a few different scriptures I found: Ephesians, John

    Young children do not have the ability to make decisions based on reasoning things out and acting in their best interests. Children make decisions based on two things.

    First they make decisions based on what they feel like they want. Whether it is right or wrong for them does not enter the picture. They act on the motivation of selfishness. Children are selfish. A baby cries till it is satisfied and gets what it wants. That continues throughout their childhood, teen years and even into their adult life unless it is checked.

    That brings us to the second motivation for a child making a decision. This motivation is because they have been taught to act in a particular way. This is where teaching and discipline comes in. Discipline teaches a child proper actions. If the child does not do what they are taught there should be unpleasant consequences, which means discipline.

    (from testimony, we have to realize Daniel’s discipline was thwarted to say the least, however, not the only factor in his behavior)

    Then we go to the “Age of Accountability,” here is a summation of what God thinks…found in the book of Romans, and Acts.

    But when does this accountability begin? Again, since the primary issue seems to be response to the revelation God has given, personal accountability would vary and depend on one’s ability to understand the most fundamental issues. In some, this might be very young, while in others it might be much older.

    If I understand God’s view on this subject, He does Not view Daniel as an adult just because he committed an adult crime, nor does he agree with Man that Daniel is at the capacity of an adult mind, no matter how smart he is…

    Too, his accountability is more than likely lowered due to his mental health disorder…something else we must consider.

    I am in no way minimizing what he did, or expecting him to be slapped on the wrist and go free….I just felt compelled to point out what the Lord has to say about a childs mind/ accountability. (keep in mind, he is not the normal 15 year-old)

    I imagine, if we use the logic of Christ, he deserves to be punished, yes, and in fact, He commands us to punish our children.

    But as to that punishment, given the circumstances of Daniel’s mindset….what is the appropriate place to live this out?

    Ultimately, it will come down to what the Lord wills…prayerfully, it will be a place where he can find healing….my prayers are continuous for this kid…

    As also, for the Northup family and friends…may they find forgiveness and peace…


    In regards to the confession, don’t believe it was a false one, he told everything about that night in explicit detail.

    . But for a seasoned FBI agent to say, “Daniel, I’m here to heal you, I can be your refuge…something to that affect….absolutely disturbs me.

    1. he acts as God, 2., he lies to him to get what he wants. 3. he refuses Daniel counsel…and in the end states, “okay, Daniel, we are arresting you for the murders of Oliver and Claudia…but we wish you the best.” Really???? disturbing….just my thoughts.

    1. tj


      You are so right! The FBI totally tricked Daniel, who fell for it. It appears Daniel desperately wanted help for his mental illness, and law enforcement played on that. It appears from what happened during the interview that Daniel’s thinking was totally muddled up in trusting the FBI agent, and thinking he would get treatment, or could go home, and he should be found NGI.

      Did you ever discover whether Daniel’s attorney objected to his being tried as an adult?

  15. tribeUSA

    Sadly it seems to me that for the protection of society, Daniel should likely be incarcerated for life, either in a mental institution or prison (commenters above are more knowledgable about this than I). Even though at some point in the future he may have a genuine healing and spiritual transformation, guys such as Daniel are clever enough to ‘play’ psychological tests and mental health professionals in order to get signed off as cured–however it is my understanding that there is no definitive test or way of telling if someone is ‘cured’ of homicidal thoughts and impulses; we can’t yet read their minds or reprogram them like robots. I believe Daniel’s only hope of a partially decent future existence for himself (as he must live in his own headspace; which he will have plenty of time for during incarceration) is to recognize the need for some kind of genuine atonement for his depraved acts. Otherwise it is just a further descent into his own personal hell.

  16. DavisVoter

    Sometimes I wonder if some commenters here recognize the appropriateness of punishment at all. Was it appropriate to punish John Wayne Gacy? How about Anders Breivik? Or, to pick someone from the medical professions who more or less entirely escaped responsibility, Josef Mengele? Is/was punishment appropriate for any of those people, or is the only allowable response separation to protect society, combined with treatment for any mental disorders that presumably caused them to engage in unfathomable conduct?

    In other words, how much of this is really about Marsh and juvenile justice as opposed to general rejection of the concept of punishment?

    1. Davis Progressive

      depends on the purpose of the punishment. i tend to believe that the purpose of punishment is to teach people (the subject and others) that an action is wrong. i also believe that our penal system should be reoriented towards rehabilitation and away from punishment for the sake of punishment.

      1. Tia Will

        DavisVoter and DP

        I strongly agree with DPs point of view. Punishment can be used for a number of purposes. Please anyone chime in if I leave out your purpose.

        1.Teaching that an action is wrong.
        2. Deterrence
        3. Restoring “justice”
        4. Revenge

        The only justifications in my mind for “punishment” are teaching and deterrence. Other justifications are nothing more than a desire for revenge. While I completely relate to the disgust for acts performed by such individuals, I see nothing gained and much lost by acts of punishment. In addition it would seem to me that a lifetime of incarceration is in and of itself severe punishment given the loss of freedom which most of us hold precious. To do so in inhumane circumstances does nothing more than erode the humane nature of our entire society. So yes DavisVoter, I believe it safe to say that I do not believe in “punishment” on beyond that inflicted by isolation from society.

        1. DavisVoter

          Right, that’s what I thought. The objections to punishing Daniel Marsh should be understood in context: they come from someone who would not punish John Wayne Gacy, Anders Breivik, or Josef Mengele.

        2. DavisVoter

          By the way, I don’t think Josef Mengele showed any propensity to crime outside of the grotesque abuse of his medical and scientifc training at Auschwitz. So I suppose that as long as the concentration camps were dismantled, he posed no further threat, so no separation was warranted. Perhaps he should have been welcomed back to Germany and allowed to resume his research along prewar lines. That research apparently was scientifically accepted and didn’t involve murdering his research subjects. After all, as you frame the issue, what gain would punishment achieve to compensate the global intellectual community for the loss of the research output of this highly trained doctor/scientist?

          You’re right, Tia Will, people who don’t agree with you have to answer for depriving the world of the scientific advances that would have come from the postwar research career of Josef Mengele.

          1. Tia Will


            It would appear that my comment hit a nerve for you. Please notice that I did not say that I would not “punish” any of these individuals. What I did say was that I felt that isolation in and of itself represents punishment. If you do not believe this to be true, perhaps reading accounts of those who have been placed in solitary confinement for long periods of time would be enough to convince you otherwise.

          2. DavisVoter

            Oh, OK. So why is punishment appropriate when it is not necessary to protect society? Your position as I had understood was coherent. I don’t understand the internal logic of the position you are now stating.

        1. KonaOhana

          Anon, there was only one person say this young man harness any animal. Further it wasn’t said to be torture. In Dan’s testimony with his doctors he did the chocking was done by his friend. The squirrel he hit with a bat was discussed by the specialist and concluded to be due to the effects of the drugs the psychiatrists prescribed him. This was concluded to be an outburst of either anger or dissociation not a serial killer instinct. To jump to such a conclusion on your part is not reasonable. It seems there’s to much supposition based on a nd to judge than a nd to understand the evidence as presented by the psychiatrist that was most knowledgeable, ie, Dr Merikangas.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for