Jury Finds Marsh Sane Despite Defense Pleas to Consider Marsh’s State of Mind

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by Antoinnette Borbon

On Tuesday morning  jurors got to hear Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson plead his case for insanity.  The burden of proving that young Daniel Marsh was insane during the commission of his acts in the insanity phase had shifted to the defense, and the standard of proof was by clear and convincing evidence.

Daniel Marsh was convicted of taking the lives of Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin. The elderly couple was found dead in their Cowell Boulevard home on April 14, 2013. Daniel subsequently explained to authorities the gruesome details of what he did in the late night hours.

Mr. Johnson began by telling the jurors that the trial was not going to get easier, but harder. He said, “Insanity is a nearly impossible assessment to make.”

He explained to the jurors that no one can know what goes on inside the mind of a person who experiences morbid, intrusive, homicidal thoughts as Daniel had in the past years.

He said, “Daniel’s brain was altered, he suffered from depression, thoughts that invaded his mind and it’s difficult to know what was in his mind. This case is not as simplistic as the prosecution would like you to believe, it is not as straightforward as he did a sadistic act so he has a sadistic mind.”

Johnson stated, “Daniel was presented with a problem of depression, they give him meds, it gets worse, they give him more medication.”

It is a rare case that something goes wrong, but it happened, he asserted.

He explained to the jurors that a child’s brain is not developed and you must take it into consideration.

Johnson said Daniel telling his friends about what he did is because that normalized the act for him – he said this is an important factor.

But if he shared with his friends after the crime, that tells you his moral compass was wrong, said Johnson.

Dr. Rokop came here and testified about his opinions of Daniel, but his expertise is limited, Johnson asserted.

Johnson stated, “When he evaluated Daniel, he never talked about side effects, he looked at his past, his [Daniel’s] thoughts are different now since the time of the acts. There is nothing on record that shows Daniel was nothing but forthcoming. He told therapists how he felt, he told cops too.”

Daniel wanted the intrusive thoughts to stop, he wanted to feel better. “I don’t like them, I don’t know why they are there,” stated Johnson about Daniel’s words. “But nothing was done.

He said Dr. Rokop never tested Daniel for dissociative identity disorder. He said the doctor’s opinions were inconsistent because Daniel had begun to experience those thoughts in 2012.

Dr. Rokop never consulted with other doctors’ reports or the care of Daniel or did any research into the side effects of medication Daniel was given, stated Johnson.

Johnson went on to say, “Then we have Dr. Schmidt, who knows less than Rokop, she never even knew about the black box warnings, or the side effects of Zoloft from the label. She says Daniel knew what he was doing, knew right from wrong because he told his friends but that is more telling that Daniel thought it was ok.”

Daniel knew something was wrong. He researched serial killers, trying to figure out what was wrong with him, what was going on in his mind, to identify with it, stated Johnson.

Then Dr. Jacobs came in and had no proof of causation, of the side effects of SSRIs, but one should look at his background, as he is the same person who was hired to defend Accutane by pharmaceutical companies, added Johnson.

Every scientist explains the medicine was not only dangerous, but wrong, asserted Johnson.

He stated, “The Maryland Board found Dr. Jacob’s opinion naive, lacking common sense.”

Johnson explained, “These are not simple side effects, these are dangerous! Rare, but dangerous.”

He said Dr. Pollack’s reports were incredibly important because he told other doctors about Daniel’s behavior and felt the medication needed to be changed or stopped. But it was ignored.

Johnson ended his closing: “You can see the story of his mind and that these thoughts, these feelings are getting worse but the drugs were not causing them on their own, there are other factors. You can’t understand what it’s like to have these thoughts in your mind; it’s one of the most terrible things to understand. I am asking you not to treat this with a rubber stamp – as a sadistic act, it’s more than that. His mind was not at the ability to understand his actions. “

“I am asking you to consider all evidence and find him insane,” Johnson implored.

As Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Cabral began his closing remarks, he told a joke, “Ladies and gentlemen, I swear this is the last time you are going to hear from me, I know you are tired of me.” Cabral then laughed along with the jurors.

Mr. Cabral attacked Dr. Merikangas’ testimony. He said the doctor testified in generalities about things and had little knowledge of anything Daniel said to him.

He stated, “Things are different today, the defense has the burden to prove insanity, it doesn’t matter what the doctors say – it’s not my burden to prove insanity.”

“There is no evidence that Daniel didn’t know it was wrong, and Dr. Merikangas doesn’t even know if brain damage matters,” asserted DDA Cabral.  He said that Dr. Merikangas wants you to believe his opinion because he says so. But, the doctor could not show proof.

The DDA said Daniel had seething anger from eight years old and he did not want to stop, he wanted to be a killer – he took joy, remember?

Once again, Cabral stated that Daniel bragged about what he did to friends, and even 18 months later still feels the same way. Daniel understood perfectly what he was doing, just look at the video; he even tried to blame it on his friend.

He explained to jurors that Daniel went to fifty houses that night and set out to kill again a few days later. He said Daniel kept the bloody clothes as souvenirs. He knew what he did was wrong and tried to conceal it.

Cabral stated, “The defense’s own witness, Ms. Tessler, testified that Daniel knew what he did was wrong (bringing the knife to school).” He said Dr. Merikangas testified that Daniel had no proper therapy but what did that mean?

No evidence shows those thoughts caused him to kill, stated the prosecutor.

Daniel told his friends because he was proud of what he had done, stated the prosecutor.

He said the last thing is the interrogation. “In the last half hour, Daniel punches the wall, says to himself, why are you f— here? and he tells Agent Campion, ‘thank you,’ after the agent tells him he executed it well.”

This tells you he knew what he was doing, he shows no remorse, asserted Cabral.

“I ask you to find him sane, thank you,” he concluded.

Mr. Johnson told the jurors, “This is not about who can tell the best jokes, in fact this is NO laughing matter, there is NOTHING funny about this case. The prosecutor laughs as he begins his closing? This is no laughing matter,” stated Johnson.

Johnson told jurors, “If the doctors say Daniel was getting better, that is a sad state of affairs, to say this is really missing the forest through the trees,” asserted Johnson

You need a background to know child development, stated Johnson. Daniel did not know why he was feeling this way, and he told people so.

“There is no evidence that Daniel feels the same as he did 18 months ago, and if the prosecutor wanted to have Dr. Pollack testify, why didn’t he call him? If he thought his opinion was valid, as he says.”

Johnson explained that Jordan Mulder, the school therapist, testified about Daniel’s above average intelligence. He found him interesting, intellectual, and wanted to talk more with Daniel.

He argued that the prosecution never talks about the thoughts or why Daniel was having them or about a dissociative disorder. “He wants you to believe this case is simple, it is not, as I told you before it is difficult to know what is going on in someone else’s mind.”

“His moral compass was skewed, the very things he lived with every single day,” explained Johnson.

“I’m asking you once again to consider these things, find him not sane.”

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The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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7 thoughts on “Jury Finds Marsh Sane Despite Defense Pleas to Consider Marsh’s State of Mind”

  1. JStark

    I envy those who have no mixed feelings about this case because I certainly have; thus, I contradict myself. By trying Daniel Marsh as an adult added victims to the case. The good couple he killed and their families are obvious victims. Young Marsh was found guilty by adults – certainly not his peers- is a disputed victim. His parents’s parental skills were questioned publicly. His friends were identified publicly. Some parents whose kids may benefit from SSRI’s may deny their teens this treatment. Mentally ill people are further stigmatized- as one comment said, we cannot rely on mentally ill people’s history. There are multiple professional reputations that are are now compromised based on testimonies directed by the “hostile” attorneys. If this case was tried in juvenile court, the proceedings would not be public, thus, it is likely the witnesses would feel less threatened and answers would likely have been clearer. As repeatedly mentioned, his prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, predisposing him to impulsivity. He should have been tried in juvenile court.

    After saying that, the crime committed here is beyond most people’s definition of delinquency. The thing is, even though his prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, it is present. Empathy develops quite early. You can see it as early as 18 months old. Daniel did not show empathy towards his victims, one who “just would not die” and asked him to stop ( per Daniel’s) own account. And yet, he stopped himself from killing a woman with a bat because there were kids who, luckily, showed up. He stopped himself from killing his friend while he is quite angry. That shows control, not impulsivity.
    It is eluded that he had an “out of body” experience. Did he have the same sensation of “Alice in Wonderland” I get when migraine hits or did he have the ” Three Faces of Eve” dissociative (multiple personality) experience? If it’s the former, then he knew what he was doing. If it is the latter, then he would not remember much of what he did (based on the limited reading I’ve done on the subject.)

    Is Daniel Marsh mentally ill? Definitely. No one will dispute that. He needs ongoing treatment that I hope he pursues and gets while jailed. My aunt, a nurse, works in Vacaville State Prison and she said psychologists and psychiatrists do work there. Being mentally ill does not negate criminality( if that is a word). Daniel committed a crime, and was found guilty. Despite his mental illness, he now has to face the consequence. His mental illness will be addressed better in Napa State Hospital than in jail. Despite being found guilty, I strongly think that he should be housed in a secured mental health institution until he is adequately treated, even if it takes his whole life. His prefrontal cortex is still forming, we will never know if it will develop into a conscientious decision center unless we try.

    Am I relieved that he is going to jail? You bet. My lovely 21 year old, 5 foot 1 inch, 100 pound niece impulsively enrolled in the psych tech program in Napa State Hospital.

    To the parents who mentioned their children’s private medical/psychiatric condition, I hope your children are OK with that because I would be furious with my mother if she ever air my depressive and migranous disorder in public.

    1. Tia Will

      JStark

      As one of the parents that spoke of my children’s difficulties, I would like to share the following.
      When I first started posting I did so anonymously largely because of my children. I then became aware of the controversy over anonymous posting and also was asked to be a member of the editorial board. I decided that I would start posting under my own name and asked each of my own children if they had any objections to my posting about their difficulties with mental health issues. Both of them, recognizing the importance of community awareness of issues regarding mental health not only had no objections, but were strongly supportive. I am very proud of them and their willingness to share experiences and stories of their lives that may prove helpful to others.
      And yes, both are doing well. Thank you for your expression of concern.

  2. Antoinnette

    Excellent points!

    I don’t believe we ever used the teens names? We caution against it. There are no winners here, to me.

    You are correct, his peers would be other teens.

    But I agree with others that his insanity should have been decided by doctors although that may have been established by their testimony?

  3. Antoinnette

    Tia….I know it helps me to know that others have been thru some of the anguish I have, although, not mental health issues, but side effects of medicine and seizures;..still medical issues.

    I appreciate any story I have read but do understand it may be too private for others. My son did not mind either…he actually wants people to know what he went thru while on the wrong medicine, all the dangers. He is going to school to be a nutritionist now while he is working as a chef at University of Wa.

    His goal is to help people live a better life thru Holistic practices, organic and nutritional methods with exercise, meditation.

    Thank you for sharing your story…:)

    1. Tia Will

      Hi Antoinette

      Perhaps because of my day job, I am exposed to patients with highly variable tolerances for sharing their personal information. Some women will come in and speak freely of their most intimate concerns at the very first visit while others will not provide me with information that may be critical to managing their symptoms until I have known them for years. JStark brought this up this variability by mentioning that he would be angry with disclosure, while my kids though nothing of it and acted surprised that I felt the need to ask for permission.

      One thing that I believe that the Marsh case illustrates is the dangers of
      our societies obsession with keeping our medical information confidential, sometimes to the point of causing harm. Mental illness in particular remains stigmatized often to the detriment of those who need help. It is my belief that what is really needed is to take mental illness out of the proverbial closet. We will all be better off when we are as comfortable discussing our mental illnesses as we are our headaches, colds, and aches and pains. We have many examples in medicine of conditions that were once hidden for which help has become available as people became aware that they were not alone and that others suffered from the same conditions. Epilepsy is one example. HIV/AIDS is another. Breast cancer still another. Over my career it has become less and less common for a woman to come in with advanced stage breast cancer which she was aware was there and knew the diagnosis but was either too ashamed ( because of the location on her body) or too afraid ( because of fear of surgery or chemotherapy) too seek help when the condition would have been readily treatable.

      I see the Marsh case in much the same light. Here we have a boy who was profoundly ill, trying to seek help and not finding it, trying his best to “feel better” and not succeeding. Perhaps someday we will have better diagnostic and treatment modalities for mental illness as we do for epilepsy, AIDS, and breast cancer. Until then, I think that being as transparent and open with our own stories has value in allowing others to see that they are not alone and perhaps in providing insight into other, better ways to assuage the psychological as well as physical pain in ourselves or our loved ones.

  4. Antoinnette

    Totally agree….things can’t get fixed by keeping silent. Often times people suffer in silence too, I’m sure being a doctor you have known a few.

    It’s encouraging to know how many people are helping to shed more light on the subjects.

    I am also encouraged by those in whom a sincere compassion and love has been shown to a broken soul….thank you so much…all of you!

    I only wish Daniel could see…:(

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