In the close of yesterday’s testimony by Daniel’s Kaiser psychiatrist, confusion loomed large as the defense had trouble eliciting useful responses to questions. At times, it appeared that Dr. Cheyenne He had no idea what Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson was talking about in regard to questions about Daniel’s care.
Daniel Marsh is the teen accused of taking the lives of Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin in their Davis home in April of 2013.
After being on the stand most of the day, the questions the defense asked were not being answered.
In fact, the defense often had to repeat the same question at least five or six times.
When talking about her notes from the visits she spent with young Marsh, Dr. He could not recall ever reading some of the reports from other doctors, nor could she remember any conversations she had with Marsh. It was perplexing, and she often seemed confused, staring at her attorney during testimony.
Mr. Johnson asked more than five times, “Did you ever talk to Daniel about homicidal thoughts?” Each time it was asked, she would respond, “Suicidal thoughts and depression,” as if she did not fully understand the question. Possibly there was a language barrier issue, but it was never made clear. She could never answer whether or not Daniel told her about any homicidal thoughts.
When asked by the defense, “Why did you keep giving him the meds if they were not working? He told you they were not working, why would you keep refilling them? And why wouldn’t you talk to him first before giving another prescription, why would you increase the dose?” The doctor’s reply was, “Um…I don’t know if it was the medicine, he tolerated it…sometimes it is not the medicine and [it is] hard to tell.”
Mr. Johnson asked, “Then why wouldn’t you bring him in to talk about it?” She had no real answer, and just repeated, “I don’t think it was the medicine, I don’t know…I don’t understand the question, can you repeat?”
In one conversation between Dr. He and Marsh’s mom, the doctor said his mother told her Daniel had been doing fine. But the defense asked her about a phone call from a school therapist regarding Daniel being a dangerous person and that they needed to consider moving him to an alternative schooling facility.
Mr. Johnson asked why she didn’t think it was important how contradictory the information seemed. She did not know.
Finally, the defense asked her, “Did you know Daniel was having side effects from the Zoloft?” She replied, “I don’t think they were side effects…”
“Do you know about the black box warnings about medicine?” Mr. Johnson asked.
“Yes, but those are just warnings, risks,” she answered. “So, what is the difference between a side effect and a risk?” Johnson asked.
The doctor stated, “Uh…he tolerated them….didn’t think he had side effects” Johnson replied, “I don’t think you are understanding my questions.”
Mr. Johnson asked, “If Daniel told you he was feeling more agitated, more aggressive, angry, having nightmares of hurting others, homicidal thoughts, you wouldn’t think those are side effects? And doesn’t it say on the label of the medicine those are the things you notify your doctor about immediately?”
She appeared confused about the questions. Again, it was unclear whether she could understand the language. She kept repeating, “Well, that is a part of suicidal thoughts, depression. I don’t understand your question…can you repeat?”
“Didn’t you think the black box warnings were something you should have talked to him about? And what do you think more serious, suicidal thoughts or homicidal?”
Her reply was, “I didn’t think he was having side effects. But suicidal, more serious.”
In a brief re-direct, Assistant Chief DDA Mike Cabral brought up notes from 2008, where a doctor of Daniel’s reported that the patient felt aggression, was angry and agitated, and was having bad dreams. Mr. Cabral asked the doctor if she had any recollection of hearing this information before, and she replied, “Um…no, I did not…”
Taking the stand again to finish up his testimony for the prosecution’s case was Daniel’s high school counselor, Jordan Mulder.
He talked about the visits with Daniel while Daniel attended Davis High School.
Near the end of his testimony, he was asked about a couple of notes he had just found a couple of weeks ago.
DDA Amanda Zambor also asked about certain statements he had told her investigator when he was interviewed.
Ms. Zambor asked Mr. Mulder, “Did you tell our investigator that Daniel told you he had weapons?” He replied, “I cannot remember, I have seen a lot of kids in a year and a half, heard a lot of stories from the media and it is hard to recall exactly what he did say…only that he may have had a weapon. Something about a pocket knife? But I can’t say for sure.”
“Did he ever tell you he wanted to hurt anyone?” DDA Zambor inquired. “I know he said he was feeling like he may have wanted to…but again…not sure what it was exactly he said,” the counselor asserted.
“Were you telling the truth to our investigator when he interviewed you? Did you recall things more back then?” DDA Zambor asked.
The counselor responded, “Um…well, I think I was truthful and it has been awhile, I can’t recall specifics.”
In one incident the counselor talked about, he stated that Daniel had told him about killing a raccoon.
Daniel told Mr. Mulder that he had killed a raccoon in his backyard with a baseball bat but felt no remorse.
The counselor talked about Daniel’s depression being the main concern, but never felt an elevated level of concern until Daniel told him about the raccoon incident.
When the counselor questioned Daniel’s mother about it, she said Daniel hit the raccoon with a rock and thought he killed it and wept. She said he showed remorse and was sad.
He said he asked Daniel if he ever felt like harming others, but Daniel’s response was, “I would only hurt someone if they hurt me…or maybe the popular kids, the ones who think they are superior to others.”
The high school counselor said he did consult with Daniel’s therapist, Timothy Hesgard, about the raccoon incident. They discussed whether or not Daniel over-exaggerated things.
Mulder was asked if Daniel had ever talked about using a weapon to hurt others. But the counselor said he could not recall what Daniel told him specifically. He said he knew he talked about using martial arts but could not recall the details.
Overall, he stated, “Daniel is a smart kid, insightful and politically sharp, I felt Daniel to be engaging more and his moods [to be] improving.”
Although he was aware of Daniel’s troubled relationship with his mom and how difficult things were, the counselor stated, “I know he did show lack of respect but I did not feel he would harm her.”
DDA Zambor asked, “And did you ever think Daniel was in a dream state, out of body, delusional?” “Um…no, he never seemed to be,” answered the counselor.
Mulder was asked why he stopped meeting with Daniel. He told Zambor, “I guess he must have improved…I am not sure, but it’s usually why we would stop meeting.”
In a brief cross-examination by Johnson, he asked Mulder, “Why did you write on the bottom of a note, ‘Horizon Facility would be a good idea for Daniel?'” The counselor answered, “Um…I know I wrote it, but I do not recall if I said it or if Timothy Hesgard said it.”
“And what is it that makes you think Daniel’s moods improved? Do you have any notes on that? Ron Johnson asked.
“I don’t have any specific notes on that….but he was smiling, talking better,” replied the counselor.
Johnson asked, “You said you wanted to make Daniel feel safe at school. Do you recall when he told you he wanted to harm others?”
“Yes, I believe it was in January,” the counselor stated.
Continuing testimony today was by Dr. David Besa, a retired clinical social worker from Kaiser. Dr. Besa has also worked in forensics.
He has worked with several patients who have been committed to Napa State Hospital, found to be “guilty by reason of insanity.” He has been a doctor for Kaiser and Napa, totaling over 35 years.
He said the first time he met with Daniel was at the crisis center in May of 2010.
Ms. Zambor asked Dr. Besa to explain the written notes as well as forms filled out by Daniel and family during his stay at the crisis center.
He said Daniel was severely depressed, having suicidal thoughts.
On the form about family dynamics, Daniel’s father put down that his son was depressed, was not sleeping, had loss of interest in things, was not eating, was very sad and had low self-esteem.
Daniel’s dad wrote that he and his wife had had a contentious divorce. Daniel also had a contentious relationship with his sister, the father wrote.
Daniel’s father put down on the form that the heart attack he suffered, when Daniel saved his father’s life, may have been a factor in Daniel’s depression and sadness.
The doctor said he had conversed with Daniel’s father on the phone and the father told Dr. Besa he wanted Daniel seen because of his depression.
The father told Dr. Besa that he and Daniel’s and mom had split custody of him, and that made Daniel sad and stressed, and Daniel often talking about wanting to die.
Dr. Besa stated, “Daniel talked about a lot of stressors from the divorce to financial reasons and school bullying.”
He said in one session with Daniel that Daniel said his mother had told him to stop taking the medicine because of the way it made him feel. By the time Daniel was at the crisis center, he had not taken one of the medications for months.
The doctor noted that when he saw Daniel, he had only been back on his medications for about a week. The doctor felt that to be a contributing factor to Daniel’s severe depression.
But overall, the doctor said, on a scale, Daniel’s level of depression was noted to be moderate to severe.
He said, “Daniel had ideas of suicide but didn’t say how he would do it or talk about having any weapons.” But over the course of a few visits, he felt that “Daniel was improving, feeling less suicidal, sad.”
When asked by Ms. Zambor if Daniel ever seemed to be “delusional, in a dream state, out of body, or not understanding the consequences of his actions,” Dr. Besa replied, “No, he seemed to be coherent, just severely depressed. But seemed to be able to talk about his feelings.”
Dr. Besa stated, “Daniel checked the box on the form that asked him if he felt like hurting people.” Daniel wrote: “I would only hurt someone if they hurt me or others.”
The doctor said he never spoke with Daniel’s mother about her son as he could not ever reach her, but he did, of course, converse with Daniel’s father. He said the father was usually present at the visits, but he testified that he also consulted with Daniel separate from his father.