By Tiffany Yeh and Lauren King
Before the trial began, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McHugh argued that it would be hearsay for Adam Malik’s parents to testify. Judge Paul Richardson stated that it was for the jurors to decide trustworthiness for state-of-mind purposes about the defendant’s post-war mental state. Mr. Malik requested not to be there when his parents testified. The request was granted by the judge. Witnesses were presented out of order from the prior plan.
The mother and father of Mr. Malik testified as defense witnesses. Ms. Malik testified first. She has three children—two sons (including Adam) and a daughter—with her husband, Mr. Latif Malik. As a young child, Adam Malik wanted to be in the military. At 17, he looked into it very seriously and joined the Air Force at that age, but his mom described him as immature. Adam Malik was discharged a few months after he joined (he went through boot camp and then was discharged).
Then he joined the Marines in 1999. She described him as being successful in the military. He married Gabrielle around 2001 or 2002, about a year before he was deployed to Iraq. He was deployed to Iraq but they started in Kuwait. In Iraq and Kuwait combined, he served for about a year. His enlistment was for four years. Mr. Malik was discharged home to the U.S., pursuant to enlistment details. After Iraq, Adam was a little quicker to react, was nervous, and didn’t like to be around crowds. He was vigilant about whom and what was around him. Ms. Malik recounted a time, three or four years ago, when she and Adam went to Walmart and were in line buying a cell phone. They left the store together before they got to the front of the line because he said it was too crowded.
Adam and his mother had discussed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) one or two years after he left the Marine Corps. Adam and his wife divorced within a year of his leaving the Marine Corps. He had held various jobs after leaving the Marines: warehouse jobs, and then selling RVs for several years. He married Jessica and then divorced. There were eight and a half years between when Adam Malik left Iraq and an incident in Sierra County.
Adam Malik was functioning well and doing very well until the Sierra County incident occurred. Mr. Malik moved back to his mother’s house at the end of 2011. His cousin was getting married in Sierra County. What occurred at the event involved a police officer, and Mr. Malik was shot. Mr. Malik went to jail for five months. He then moved back with his mom after his incarceration. His mom described the change in his disposition. He had become paranoid, very fearful for his life, had panic attacks and nightmares, couldn’t sleep, and became very depressed. He was not working during this time.
His mother was aware that he was getting medication from the VA (Veterans Affairs). She drove him to appointments at the Sacramento VA Hospital at Mather. Mr. Malik was reluctant to go to the VA because of Code Blue, where veterans deemed a threat to themselves were locked up for an undetermined time.
Incidents occurred. One was when Adam got up on top of his mom’s parked camper for around ten minutes and said, “They might be after me.” Another occurred in spring of 2013, when he hadn’t come home for the night and his mom got worried and called his cell phone. He asked if the police were at the house and whether she was sure that they weren’t. She answered that no, they weren’t. Then he hung up. Around 3am, Mr. Malik knocked on her door. He was half naked, with no shirt on, and was covered in mud, muck, debris, and was shivering. His mom said he had hypothermia. He had hid, underwater, in an irrigation ditch until “lights went out.” He then hid in the backyard, front yard, and then finally had knocked on her door. He was convinced that police were in the house. She took his temperature—it was 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and told him that she was going take him to the hospital but he wouldn’t go. She ended up having him take a warm bath to finally get his temperature back up.
On the day of the October 15, 2014, incident, his mom was supposed to pick him up in the morning for a VA appointment at Mather. He was offered an intensive PTSD in-house treatment (which would be at Stanford) that they were considering.
After Adam was shot in Sierra County, his mom described his PTSD as going through the roof. He started attempting suicide after the Sierra County incident. In August of 2013, Mr. Malik was in the hospital with bandages and scars on his forearm. Afterward, he went to Scripps Hospital in the San Diego area, and stayed at his mom’s brother-in-law’s parents’ house. The next suicide attempt occurred within three or four months. Early nighttime on a certain day, his mom found him unconscious in the bedroom. She tried to wake him, but he was twisted in a weird position, and she called 911. He was taken to the hospital and stayed there all night.
Another suicide attempt (similar to the one just prior) occurred and his mom called 911. His mom was aware of the medication he was taking. She drove him to the VA to pick up some, and some was mailed to the house. Post Iraq, his PTSD was rated a “3” or a “4”. After getting shot, it was a “10”. Post Sierra County, he was paranoid, anxious, depressed, and hyper-vigilant. One time, he strung catfish line across the front of the house because he was afraid the police were going to kill him. He locked the gate of the courtyard in front of the house with a bike lock.
During cross-examination, DDA McHugh asked if the defendant would confront people when he was stressed because of his PTSD. His mom replied that, after 2011, he had anxiety and when the anxiety would get bad, he would remove himself from the situation when it was at a family gathering. But at times he would be confrontational. He would not stab, shoot, or run people over with a car as a response to stress. He was able to have conversations with her, plan to do things and make decisions, but his follow through was bad. He had panic attacks in 2011 but they didn’t occur very often, less than once a month. He would get anxious, jittery, and then calm down. He was medicated. When Mr. Malik’s mom spoke to a defense investigator, she related that when he drank during family gatherings, he would become mean-spirited and make her the butt of his jokes, so she told him not to drink at her house. Mr. Malik was never physically violent at her house. He had narcotics from the VA and she did not know if he lied to get medicated.
Before Sierra County, Mr. Malik was simply anxious and jittery, not good in crowds, but his PTSD was sporadic. After Sierra County, he had very frequent PTSD and it was at an extremely elevated level. He was hyper-vigilant, and had extreme fear, especially of law enforcement. She said it was hard to look at her son because of his anxiety and depression. DDA McHugh kept asking questions about the defendant’s prior offenses and domestic violence, to which Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson objected, and which objections were repeatedly sustained by the judge. After a while, Mr. Hutchinson got visibly frustrated and spoke in an irritated manner to the judge and took his glasses off, paused for a bit, and then composed himself. Afterwards, the judge did tell Ms. McHugh to go to the next question, sustaining some of Mr. Hutchinson’s objections.
The next defense witness was Mr. Malik’s father, Latif Malik. Mr. Malik’s grandfather had served as a lieutenant general in Pakistan. Mr. Malik’s father immigrated to the U.S. to escape religious persecution in Pakistan. As stated above, he has three kids with Ms. Malik, all of whom are serving or have served in the military. Ever since Adam Malik was a kid, about 15, he wanted to join the military. After he got shot, his PTSD got much worse and he had a lot more fear. He attempted suicide a couple of times. His dad related when Adam would take wood and nails and board up some parts of the house, lock the gate, climb the roof of the house, and showed fear. Mr. Malik recounted details of when he visited his son in the hospital in the San Diego area. Adam’s arm was cut up and he saw the scars and bandages. He seemed sad, angry, and upset all at once. He said that his son doesn’t like talking about his suicide attempts, even though sometimes the topic comes up.
Latif Malik said that his son expresses feelings of grief or regret from his time in Iraq, all the time, even 15 years later, and will start crying uncontrollably. Adam has talked about there being lots of enemies, and that they had to take over the village but realized they were civilians. Saddam’s military would behead children. Adam mentioned manning a machine gun.
Another time, a child was bleeding and asked Adam for help. Something about a building was mentioned, when one of Adam’s higher-ups told him it was a trap and not to help the child. Adam listened and did not help the child.
Other times Adam Malik described to his father included clearing buildings, describing something about gas masks, and about slowing down.
During cross-examination, Latif Malik said something about that he and his son were not involved in tribal warfare in Pakistan. Ms. McHugh continued asking questions about the defendant’s prior offenses and domestic violence. The father said that all he knows about the domestic violence was when Adam shook his first wife and told her to wake up while they were both in bed. To the DDA’s questions, Mr. Malik was indignant and implied that she was lying. Mr. Hutchinson continued to object to Ms. McHugh’s questions.
The trial of Adam Malik resumed on the afternoon of June 5, 2015, at the Yolo County Superior Courthouse. Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt called an expert witness on PTSD. The therapist had spoken with Mr. Malik at the request of the Public Defender’s office. She diagnosed the defendant with PTSD, which she discussed and elaborated on in open court. The therapist’s opinion was informed by such things as her experience with veterans since the Vietnam War and her two-and-a-half to three hour interview with Mr. Malik.
After speaking with Mr. Malik and consulting police and incident reports, the therapist pinpointed that the defendant’s PTSD was sourced from his military experience in Iraq and the shooting that occurred in Sierra County. Other situations have triggered the defendant’s PTSD symptoms and he appeared to have a low threshold for such triggers. Outside of her interview with Mr. Malik, the therapist spoke with both of his parents. His mother recounted an instance in which her son had set up alarms and traps all around his house. She also told the therapist that Adam had made three suicide attempts since the Sierra County shooting. These admissions, in combination with her interview with Mr. Malik and supplied documentation, caused the expert witness to believe that the defendant was living with a heightened sense of fear and a severe case of PTSD.
During the interview with Mr. Malik, the therapist noted that the defendant seemed dissociated. His tone and demeanor were very flat despite the emotional nature of the content. Only when discussing his young son, did Mr. Malik exhibit any profound emotional response. The therapist explained that this was not usual behavior for a PTSD sufferer. She added that veterans from the Iraqi and Afghani Wars often come home with PTSD due to the prevalence of seeing both comrades and enemies blown up by weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
DDA Jennifer McHugh was concerned about the possibility that Mr. Malik could be feigning his symptoms as a legal defense. The therapist admitted that there is no single test that can be conducted to ensure that someone is truly ill. Mr. Malik’s history of arrests, domestic violence, and drug abuse were discussed by the prosecution. There were also a number of police reports demonstrating that the defendant had reportedly stolen both Vicodin and Xanax on several occasions.
The trial was adjourned for the afternoon and set to resume on Monday, June 8.