by Antoinnette Borbon
As the second week of the Marsh trial concludes, taking the stand this afternoon was Dr. James Rokop, a Clinical Psychologist appointed by the court to assess Daniel Marsh.
Dr. Rokop specializes in parole hearings, juvenile crimes, and sexual predators – both adults and children. He has worked in many different California counties and in Utah, conducting evaluations on youth, studying their disorders, and studying failed sex offenders. He also worked on several juvenile panels within the state.
He currently works for the state in assessing “NGI” cases (not guilty by reason of insanity) while also working in the Acute Psychological Ward at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. But he stated that this is the first time he has testified in a case, although he has determined “two out of five evaluations on NGI cases in the past to be found ‘insane.'”
Dr. James Rokop’s testimony would unravel a gruesome story about the deaths of Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin, but not before talking about the cascade of events in the young boy’s life that may have played a significant role in his behavior and severe depression.
Daniel, the now 17-year-old, is charged with taking the lives of Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin in the early morning hours of April 14th, 2013.
Daniel often hung his head and covered his eyes while listening to the details of his statements given to Dr. Rokop.
Inconsistencies in time frames would challenge the validity of Daniel’s statements and cause the doctor to be suspicious, Rokop said in response to Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Cabral’s questions.
The doctor did express the possibility of Daniel having a cognitive slippage and/or the possibility of a dissociative disorder.
A step-by-step detailed question and answer with the doctor by Mr. Cabral would give the jurors an inside look into the mind of young Daniel Marsh.
Daniel’s history explained several stress factors from which the young teen would be thrown into a deep state of depression. But, the doctor stated, “some of the stories were suspect, I felt Daniel may have over-played things.”
The doctor was asked to go over what Daniel had told him about his family and social history. He said Daniel talked about his parents being addicted to prescription drugs and being “narcissistic,” which led to emotional and mental abuse from Daniel’s father.
But he stated, “I felt Daniel’s first morbid experience was when his father had a heart attack; Daniel talked about seeing his dad in a dead state.”
He said Daniel was teased by his sister about being chubby, and at times he felt like stabbing her. He also admitted to wanting to kill his mother’s girlfriend and, once, when angry at his friend, wanting to kill him too.
Daniel told Dr. Rokop he had the responsibility of taking care of his mother after she had seizures. He told the doctor that, on many occasions, “I had to clean up vomit, take care of her, and make sure she went to the doctor.” It was stressful to Daniel, the doctor stated.
Daniel’s friendships were with a few kids who liked the same things he did: playing guitar and video games, and watching gore films while getting high on hard alcohol cocktails with different types of marijuana.
He said he first began drinking at 12 years old and, after he had become severely depressed, Daniel would binge drink, taking vodka to school in a water bottle.
Moving onto the night in question, Dr. Rokop said that Daniel felt a built-up sense of anger but did not recall if he had been under the influence of anything. The doctor felt that sounded suspicious.
He said Daniel could articulate too many details of the crime to have been under any influence, in his opinion.
As far as Daniel being cognitive and coherent during his interview, the doctor felt Daniel to be an above average kid, having an IQ of 114.
Dr. Rokop would elaborate on the details of that night, stating, “Daniel talked about feeling a sense of being surreal, euphoric, even giggling afterwards.”
He said Daniel had a sexual arousal from the event and set out to do it again with a bat and a knife a few days later but changed his mind because of witnesses present.
The doctor asked Daniel why he chose strangers. Daniel answered, “They weren’t worth anything,” and he felt that the cops would never suspect that a 15-year-old kid would do such a thing.
“But if you were angry with your parents, why wouldn’t you kill them?” Dr. Rokop asked Daniel. He answered, “Because they are still useful, I’d rather just beat up my father, I didn’t care if my mom died from her illness.”
Daniel explained to Dr. Rokop that, as he walked into the room and stood over the couple, “it was too late not to take action at that point.”
Daniel told the doctor that he felt “out of body, surreal, a feeling like better than being high on opium.”
During the interview with Dr. Rokop, Daniel said as he was at the police station being interrogated, he noticed bumps on his hands but did not recall where they came from.
It was felt by Daniel that the world had too many people and people were to him “cockroaches, except for children.” He appeared to the doctor to have no remorse for wanting to decrease the population.
When asked about how many animals Daniel had killed, he related a different amount, in two different accounts, to doctors and authorities; thus these statements were believed by Dr. Rokop to be suspect.
Dr. Rokop stated, “The story about the animals gave me suspicion.” But, he said, “It was also the part about his medications. When we talked about his medication, Daniel told me that he felt better being off of anti-depressants but felt no change being off the anti-anxiety meds, and then corrected himself, as if forming a defense.”
He felt that Daniel was possibly trying to form the identity of a serial killer but also that he may have been over-playing a few statements to convince him of a defense of “NGI.”
“I was suspicious of some of his answers; it was as if Daniel knew what to say about his medications…left me suspicious.”
Daniel’s overall history was traumatic at times and he abused alcohol and marijuana on a regular basis. It was unclear if Daniel had been taking his prescribed medications, as his mother was told by therapists “not to hover over Daniel” about his meds, so she put them in a bowl.
Dr. Rokop said Daniel’s time frame of events about killing animals did not match and he felt that Daniel’s answers during the interview “showed validity of inconsistencies, he never reported to police any hallucinations until after the interrogation, and the time frames for his symptoms from medications did not match.”
Dr. Rokop stated, “There is a whole list of statements of rare symptoms – how much do you believe?”
The doctor asserted once again, “It is just suspect…”
From his final diagnosis of Daniel, he stated that Daniel suffers from major depressive disorder, sexual sadism, anti-social disorder and conduct disorder, and substance abuse.
He said, “There are just too many questions about what he was using that night but he did say he had no sleep in days before the crime.”
In conclusion, Dr. Rokop did note that Daniel did display symptoms of cognitive slippage, a dissociative disorder, but it needed further investigation as he disagreed with some of the research and other experts’ reports in this case. He said further testing could be done to find out more.
During cross-examination, Lead Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson would begin asking the doctor why he found it odd that Daniel stopped to clarify how he felt being off the medications.
Dr. Rokop stated, “Because he stopped to correct himself.” Johnson asked, “To correct himself, or to clarify, and why is that odd? If a person is trying to explain to you how they feel being winged off of a medication, what is odd about that? He’s a kid who had no idea about what was causing these feelings.”
“Well, I felt Daniel may have been playing on the medication being the cause of his actions,” replied the doctor.
“I understand what you are saying but doesn’t it make sense that if a psychiatrist told him what may have been happening it made him feel relieved that he finally knew what was going on?” asked Mr. Johnson.
Dr. Rokop answered, “Well, I disagree with you, I feel he knew what he was doing that night and it is suspect to me that he could not recall if he was using anything…it doesn’t fit into what I was formulating with time frames too, in regards to killing of the animals.” He said he felt Daniel was “overplaying.”
Johnson asked him if he read the reports from Kaiser about the worsening symptoms Daniel was having, but the doctor claimed he had not read they were worsening, only improving.
The doctor told the defense that Daniel did say now that he is off all medications, he no longer feels perversions or thoughts of killing anyone, but he did indicate some depressed feelings.
Dr. Rokop admitted that some of the medication could have been an aggravating factor. But he was concerned that, through some of Daniel’s statements to him during the lengthy interview, “Daniel may have a defense in mind, perhaps all statements were not driven but may be shaped for his defense.”
Johnson then asked him, “So then if he already had a defense in mind, why lie about using marijuana? And are you saying he was evasive in his statements?”
“No, not evasive, I just found it odd, some of his answers, they didn’t fit,” the doctor replied.
Dr. Rokop replied that “Daniel is smarter than that,” when asked why Daniel wouldn’t admit he was on anything that night. The doctor says often times criminals study a defense and “it is not uncommon to do that.”
But the defense returned boldly with, “Maybe he just wanted to get off his meds…I don’t see that as odd that he could not recall using marijuana that night, why lie? Why not say that?”
Johnson asked the doctor if he had any evidence that Daniel may be trying to convince anyone of a NGI defense.
Dr. Rokop stated, “I really don’t have anything written, but it was heard during jail visits that Daniel was inquiring about the NGI defense.”
The defense asked the doctor if he had knowledge that the time frame Daniel talked about, when he said he killed the animals, was in fact during January of 2013, as it was in a written report by another doctor who treated Daniel. Johnson asked if it would surprise Dr. Rokop to know about this.
Dr. Rokop said, “No, I had a lot of evidence to look through pages of evidence and never saw that written anywhere to my recollection, but I am not pre-supposing experts were incorrect, I just have issues you have to factor in with the insanity phase.”
Johnson asked Dr. Rokop to describe what his primary duties were again. He spoke briefly about the treatments and testing done on a defendant/patient.
He explained to the defense his work with adolescents, group homes, autistic children and mental health adolescents at a hospital in Berkeley.
But the doctor asserted once again he is now working with parole release evaluations for the state and the psych ward at the Vacaville correctional facility.