Dispute over “Consciousness” Arises during Murder

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By Samantha Kancigor

San Francisco – A fierce face-off occurred today in Department 10 between the defense counsel and the expert witness brought to the stand by the prosecution. The prosecution called Dr. John Greene to the stand, in response to Dr. George Woods, the expert witness called to the stand by the defense this morning. Dr. Greene claimed to disagree with the assertion by Dr. Woods about the defendant, the defendant. Dr. Woods had claimed there was evidence to support that the defendant had been unconscious during the time of the incident, however, Dr. Greene argued the contrary.

During direct questioning by the prosecution, Dr. Greene asserted that he agreed with prior diagnoses by other physicians who had met with and treated The defendant. Dr. Greene diagnosed Her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety coupled with panic attacks, and schizophrenia. He claimed that She met two of the five criteria listed in the DSM-5 (a manual used to diagnose mental disorders) for schizophrenia, and was thus able to conclude that she had been suffering from it.

In his definition of “unconsciousness,” Dr. Greene said that he defines it as “the lack of consciousness” and thus the lack of awareness of one’s own actions and situation. He made comparisons to seizure episodes and alcohol-induced unconsciousness to provide examples of true states of unconsciousness and the characteristics of such situations.

He ultimately argued that She was not unconscious but had impaired consciousness during the time of the alleged incident. He also testified that, contrary to Dr. Woods’ testimony, he does not believe She suffered from a traumatic brain injury relating to the assault she had experienced a month before the strangulation of her grandmother. He said that someone who had experienced a traumatic brain injury would not be able to recall much from the incident. The doctor said that the defendant was able to give him bits and pieces of what occurred. He said that She did tell him that one moment she remembered strangling her grandmother and then the next moment she was in the bathroom with her grandmother lying on the ground. She does not remember how they got there and claimed to have “blacked out” between those two events. The doctor had taken note of this, but there was no analysis of her “blackout” in his formal report. Therefore, the defense questioned whether he had thoroughly investigated and acknowledged the period of alleged “unconsciousness” before concluding that she had not been unconscious during the alleged crime.

It became apparent to the court that the gap of time necessary to declare unconsciousness is arbitrary and unfounded when the defense asked if there was a minimum amount of time required in order to declare someone unconscious. The doctor was ultimately unable to answer the question, saying, “It’s not a time frame…it’s a presentation of their memory.” Thus it can be inferred that it is difficult to determine the point at which someone enters the state of unconsciousness.

It remains unclear whether the defendant was truly conscious and in a rational state of mind during the time of the strangulation of her grandmother. Both sides provided convincing arguments through expert witnesses in the field, however, it seems that “(un)consciousness” is too abstract of a concept to concretely determine.

However, this detail is crucial for the verdict and the fate of the defendant. Cut short for the day, the defense will continue to press Dr. Greene on his opinion about whether or not the defendant was truly aware enough to understand the grave consequences of her actions.


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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