Examining Behavioral Continuity: Prosecution in Marsh case scrutinizes defendant’s conduct both before and after incarceration.
By K. Hall
The evidence phase in the juvenile transfer hearing for Daniel Marsh resumed this morning in Department 7 of Yolo Superior Court, as Officer Christina Tranfaglia, a 12-year deputy probation officer who additionally holds a graduate degree in psychology and is a practicing marriage and family counselor, took the witness stand for a third consecutive day. Today, the testimony Tranfaglia gave in her statements during cross-examination yesterday by Supervising Deputy Public Defender Andrea Pelochino underwent a reexamination. Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor questioned Officer Tranfaglia extensively throughout the entirety of the morning.
Officer Tranfaglia’s testimony began by reiterating an opinion she first expressed on Monday – that, in her opinion, Marsh cannot be rehabilitated by the age of 25. She elucidated that this opinion should not be interpreted as an indication of any deficiencies in the spectrum of services offered by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Rather, her statement was intended to be indicative of her opinion regarding Marsh’s individual psychological fitness. Marsh is, according to Officer Tranfaglia, “not appropriate for D.J.J” due to his specific “personality disorder” which she contended makes him incapable of rehabilitation. She also pointed out to the court that any individual over the age of 18 cannot be forced to participate in the services offered by D.J.J. and, therefore, any compliance with treatment recommendations from D.J.J. regarding Marsh would require a willingness to participate on his part.
In another line of questioning, Ms. Zambor sought to address statements previously made by Officer Tranfaglia regarding what she observed to be a “pattern of behavior” including “goal directed” actions on Marsh’s part. Today those questions were specifically centered around the pattern of behavior he displayed prior to arrest in comparison with his observed behavior while in police custody. Officer Tranfaglia began with a brief discussion of some broad categorical variation between violent and non-violent psychopaths, stating that violent psychopaths can often demonstrate “extreme control” over their own behavior, which frequently includes carefully calculated acts. She stated that Marsh has consistently conducted himself in a non-violent manner while in custody. In sharp juxtaposition, Officer Tranfaglia noted Marsh’s behavior indicated some degree of proclivity toward violence prior to incarceration. This was evidenced by the existence of self-reports detailing Marsh’s engagement in animal torture and killing, along with other suspected behavior(s) including “graphic and gory images” associated with a Tumblr account that may have been linked to Marsh prior to the offense. However, it should be noted for the reader that the suspected link between Marsh and the Tumblr account was at best ill-defined in today’s proceedings. Nevertheless, Officer Tranfaglia clearly indicated that in her opinion Marsh’s abstinence from violent behavior while in police custody seems to fit with a general trend of calculated and controlled behavior that has been observed in clinically diagnosed violent psychopaths.
As Ms. Zambor’s questioning progressed, the narrative unfolded of a troubled teen who, in the years leading up to his offense, experienced some serious mental and physical issues. Tranfaglia testified to Marsh’s long medical and mental health history between 2008 and 2011 that encompassed a plethora of concerns. According to Tranfaglia, Marsh’s medical history included routine checkups with his pediatrician, appointments with family counselors after his parents’ divorce, a nutritionist, and a dietician. In addition, she indicated that Marsh was under the care of at least one psychologist as well as at least one psychiatrist within this time frame. She testified that during this period Marsh was diagnosed with anger and depression. He was prescribed Prozac for a time and additionally underwent hospitalization for anorexia.
Officer Tranfaglia also testified to a long history of educational attempts at behavior modification through counseling and individual plans through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) – which were the result of collaboration between Marsh’s parents, the school nurse, teachers and other educational professionals working at the school he attended during this same period.
Tranfaglia testified that, according to her report, Marsh consistently demonstrated a resistance to the various avenues of treatment, decided upon by his parents in accordance with the advice of medical and educational professionals. This raises a question as to the degree of cooperation which can be expected from Marsh regarding any treatment recommendations which may be proposed by D.J.J. in the future if this hearing results in a transfer to Juvenile Court.
When questioned by Ms. Zambor, Officer Tranfaglia repeatedly confirmed that she found no documentation of Marsh experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts during this period (2008-2011) in any of the various clinicians’ records or school reports. Conversely, according to her testimony on Monday, once in police custody, Marsh indicated having experienced these symptoms.
The morning session concluded with ongoing details regarding the specifics of Marsh’s medical and mental health history. Officer Tranfaglia was asked by the court to return after the break and resume her testimony throughout the afternoon. The alleged discontinuity between Marsh’s pattern of behavior and state of mental health prior to arrest versus that which has been observed in the aftermath remains yet to be further probed. In conjunction, potential links between the difficulties experienced by Marsh in his childhood and his criminality will certainly be scrutinized throughout the testimony yet to come.