by Jade Wolansky
The People v. Samantha Green trial resumed on the afternoon of September 7, 2016, in Department 14 with Judge David Rosenberg presiding. Ms. Green is charged with second-degree murder of her infant son, Justice Rees.
The first witness to take the stand was Doctor Matthew Soulier, a forensic psychiatrist and associate professor at the UC Davis Medical Center.
Dr. Soulier, testifying for the defense, diagnosed Ms. Green with drug-induced psychosis. He stated that the only explanation for an intelligent woman to spend 24 hours at the Knights Landing Ridge Cut Slough is irrationality.
Throughout the cross-examination by Deputy DA Ryan Couzens, Dr. Soulier expressed exasperation with Mr. Couzens’ questioning. He believed Mr. Couzens was excessively simplifying mental illness.
Mr. Couzens began by asking Dr. Soulier if he had reviewed specific reports and statements about the Green case. Dr. Soulier replied that he could not recall exactly, because he had received a large packet with documents.
The prosecution asked Dr. Soulier about Ms. Green’s several accounts about a person called “KF.” Ms. Green had stated KF had tried to sexually assault her. Green also recounted that KF had threatened to kidnap Frank Rees and that she needed to go Knights Landing with the baby to prevent this.
Dr. Soulier affirmed that Ms. Green had made those statements. However, the witness commented that Green had memory issues and a disturbed sense of reality.
Mr. Couzens asked why Dr. Soulier diagnosed Ms. Green with drug-induced psychosis. Soulier replied that Green had acted in a disorganized manner. He stated it made no sense for her to be at Ridge Cut Slough for such a long period.
The prosecution questioned Soulier about methamphetamine causing complete fixation with certain tasks. Dr. Soulier confirmed this.
Mr. Couzens asked about Ms. Green’s jealousy in regard to Mr. Rees’ affairs. Dr. Soulier confirmed he was aware of the jealousy. The DA proceeded to ask Soulier if he believed most crime was committed due to anger and jealousy. The witness replied affirmatively, however, he stated that there is usually a rational end and beginning.
The next line of questioning dealt with the overall dynamics of lying. Mr. Couzens asked the witness if it takes effort to fake the truth. Dr. Soulier stated he felt uncomfortable making general statements without context. Mr. Couzens then asked if truth was consistent. The witness replied that he felt he was being questioned about philosophy, not psychiatry.
Mr. Couzens moved on to ask about the possibility of Ms. Green malingering, a faking or exaggerating of symptoms of illness. Dr. Soulier stated that he administered malingering tests. He explained that the tests try to identify people who embellish their statements and do not understand or have the subtleties of mental illness.
DDA Couzens inquired if fear of demons, government control and the apocalypse are unusual hallucinations. Dr. Soulier replied in the negative. He stated that it is very common for people who experience hallucinations to have a fear of persecution with religious overtones.
Mr. Couzens suggested that the hallucination themes were very clichéd, and perhaps malingering. Dr. Soulier stated that he disagreed.
The prosecution asked the witness if a person doubted their hallucination for a moment, whether their hallucination could not be the cause of their actions. Dr. Soulier replied with impatience that psychiatry is not black and white.
At this point, Judge Rosenberg admonished Mr. Couzens not to make facial expressions during cross-examination.
Mr. Couzens then questioned whether Dr. Soulier had performed other tests, such as the test of malingering memory, which the DA believed to be more accurate. Dr. Soulier stated that psychiatric tests are multiple pieces of a comprehensive evaluation. Regardless, if Ms. Green had passed one test and not another, it would be impossible to conclude if a defendant is being completely truthful or not. He again emphasized that mental illness is not linear.
Mr. Couzens asked Dr. Soulier about other inconsistencies in Ms. Green’s actions.
He recounted Ms. Green’s statement that she would not go out to obtain food stamps or attend prenatal appointments due to Mr. Rees’ paranoia. The prosecution asked Dr. Soulier why Ms. Green would not go with other friends or family who could help her. Dr. Soulier replied that this was because of Mr. Rees’ controlling relationship with her.
The DDA questioned the witness about how Mr. Rees would have control over Ms. Green, since he was frequently absent. Dr. Soulier explained that Mr. Rees did not have to be physically present to control Ms. Green. For instance, he could isolate Ms. Green and remove her means of transportation.
The prosecution inquired whether Dr. Soulier had factored in Ms. Green’s statement: “I was lying,” when he diagnosed her. Dr. Soulier stated affirmatively that he had. He testified that he diagnosed Ms. Green with drug-induced psychosis because she had been filling in memory gaps and was under extreme duress.
Dr. Soulier also commented that inconsistencies are more common than consistencies in reports and statements. He testified that it would be impossible for a defendant to respond with the same answer over the course of two years of a trial. Otherwise, no defendant would ever be prosecuted.
Mr. Couzens then asked what story Dr. Soulier accepted. Dr. Soulier stated that he knew Ms. Green had spent 24 hours in the slough and that she had acted in a disorganized and irrational manner. Methamphetamine abuse likely drove her behavior. Dr. Soulier suspected Ms. Green has been psychotic for a long period.
At this point, Judge Rosenberg called for a 15-minute break.
The DDA proceeded to ask Dr. Soulier if Ms. Green had borderline personality disorder (BPD), pursuant to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), by reading off symptoms of the illness. Dr. Soulier responded that Mr. Couzens did not understand mental illness and was grossly simplifying BPD.
Judge Rosenberg admonished Dr. Soulier to speak with a more respectful tone when answering questions.
Public Defender Tracie Olson then began re-direct examination. She inquired about why he did not diagnose Ms. Green with BPD. The witness answered that he had considered it, but he concluded that the defendant did not have the illness.
Ms. Olson asked Dr. Soulier about gaslighting. Dr. Soulier explained that gaslighting occurs when someone causes a victim to doubt their own reality. He stated Frank Rees was associated with gaslighting and that it is another form of emotional abuse and control.
The next witness to take the stand was Frank Rees.
Ms. Olson questioned Mr. Rees about his mother’s Facebook post on February 21, 2015. “PR” had posted that Mr. Rees was unable to recognize his family. Mr. Rees stated that he had a nervous breakdown. He explained that he felt a lot of pressure due to the new baby, his other children, and the high expectations others had of him.
Ms. Olson asked if he had taken drugs that day. Ms. Rees replied he did not think so.
Ms. Olson then asked Mr. Rees about Ms. Green’s phone call to him on March 9, 2015. In the phone call, Ms. Green explained that KF, the person Green had claimed assaulted her, was actually not at the incident site at all. Mr. Rees confirmed this.
The defense asked Mr. Rees what he believed had happened before he received the phone call. Mr. Rees explained he believed that “Damage Incorporated,” a gang that KF is associated with, had caused Justice Rees’ death.
The prosecution objected to Ms. Olson’s line of questioning. The judge interceded and stated he would overrule the objection if Ms. Olson’s end goal was to call into question the witness’ testimony. Ms. Olson replied affirmatively.
Ms. Olson questioned Mr. Rees about several Facebook messages and posts to KF and his mother. Mr. Rees stated that his phone had been stolen. He was unsure if he had sent the messages or made the posts Ms. Olson was referring to, and said he suspected someone else had accessed his phone.
The trial is scheduled to resume September 8, 2016, in Department 14.