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.”