Expert Witness Diagnoses Alleged Davis Stabbing Suspect with Schizophrenia

By Cynthia Hoang-Duong

WOODLAND, CA — “Mr. Dominguez is a textbook example of schizophrenia,” concluded a psychologist at Thursday’s competency jury trial for alleged Davis stabbing suspect Carlos Dominguez in Yolo County Superior Court.

After noting she received the police investigative reports—including an eight-hour investigation video and an audio recording of his interactions with an undercover investigator, and medical records—for her analysis, the psychologist detailed how she interacted with Dominguez for her independent evaluation of him.

On May 28, during a three-hour evaluation conducted in the Monroe Detention facility, the expert witness reviewed Dominguez’s clinical history and performed a mental status examination.

The doctor said she administered the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test (M-FAST), to determine whether Dominguez was malingering psychiatric illness, and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-IV (MCMI-IV), a self-report measure that considers the individual’s personality and clinical syndromes.

Although not administered by herself, the psychologist also informed the court she reviewed additional tests performed by another doctor.

When asked for her opinion based on her observations and review of the material, she adamantly stated, “I think that he suffers from schizophrenia.”

She explained, as requested by Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson, that schizophrenia is a psychiatric illness with a peak onset for males in the early 20s—as in the instant case which involves the 20-year-old student/accused.

Citing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), she listed the five key symptoms of schizophrenia: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms.

To qualify as schizophrenic, the doctor explained, “The individual also has to have … these symptoms of the auditory, delusional, or disorganized (the first three symptoms) for at least a month. And the symptoms in totality have to have caused impairment for the individual that is significant in their work or interpersonal relationships or school.”

Turning to the fourth sign of schizophrenia, Hutchinson asked the psychologist whether certain behaviors exhibited by Dominguez are classified as negative symptoms.

She then described how his physical appearance, including long hair that conceals his face, lack of eye contact, and rigid posture, is significant to her schizophrenia diagnosis.

Relying on her own meeting with Dominguez and the eight-hour police interview, the doctor claimed rigid posture is a recognized negative symptom and is “one of the hardest things for anybody to ever fake.”

Further, she detailed his monotone and indifferent manner of speech, including brief and delayed responses, such as “Yes/No” or “I don’t know.” She labeled his thinking as concrete because “he would take things fairly literal.”

For instance, the witness said, “I think I asked him … “What does it mean when two people see eye-to-eye and his answer was, “They’re looking at each other.” She reiterated these are recognized signs of schizophrenia.

When asked about whether he exhibited disorganized speech, the expert witness recounted several times where Dominguez mumbled and when asked again, he would not answer or say the same thing.

Regarding the first two symptoms of schizophrenia, the doctor confirmed that Dominguez denied hearing voices and mental health symptoms despite witness reports that claim he appeared to be talking to himself.

Based on the evidence she reviewed, despite his denial—which she said is commonly observed in schizophrenic individuals—the doctor testified there is consistent evidence of his delusions or hallucinations.

She confirmed his belief that he was still a UC Davis student, conflicting statements about his breakup with his girlfriend, and a statement that he never held a job despite his paid employment at Jack-in-the-Box raised concerns about his delusions.

Turning to M-FAST, the psychologist informed the court that Dominguez scored a one, suggesting that he is not malingering or feigning a psychiatric illness.

She concluded the direct examination by affirming her opinion that the accused is not competent to proceed with legal proceedings based on his inability to cooperate with the DPD and cognitively understand the proceedings, along with declining mental health.

Despite acknowledging that Dominguez recognized Hutchinson as his attorney, the psychologist maintained he is incapable of rationally assisting his attorney because of his “poverty of speech and thought,” concrete and simplistic thinking and distrust of people.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew De Moura, on cross-examination, pressed the psychologist on whether the certain incidents she described definitively constituted schizophrenia, and the validity of the tests she administered.

He attempted to suggest that the incidents highlighted as significant by the expert witness do not definitively indicate a mental disorder. Regarding the conflicting statements during the breakup, the doctor agreed that some individuals may not be truthful about breakups.

DDA De Moura inquired, “You agree that you can have a mental disorder or defect and you can give a response to something that is unaffected by the mental disorder or defect,” before adding, “Just because someone has a mental disorder or defect, that doesn’t control every answer or response they give you.”

Likewise, she conceded that she could not definitively say whether Dominguez was notified that he had been dismissed from UC Davis. The DDA also cast doubt about whether the accused definitively understood her question about his employment.

He emphasized the contradicted statements cannot always be assumed to be related to a mental disorder.

Further, DDA De Moura targeted her interpretation of the accused’s test results, noting that although Dominguez provided inconsistent statements about his delusions, the psychologist still believed he was not malingering.

Although she admitted that she had other evidence that was inconsistent with the test results administered, the doctor clarified that she integrated other tests, witness reports and other materials for her diagnosis.

The prosecution noted that although the psychologist’s opinion relied on the report of another doctor, he was unable to complete a competency evaluation, and contended that she does not have a secondary opinion about whether Dominguez can assist his attorney on a rational basis.

Regarding her competency evaluation, the witness agreed individuals with a mental disorder or defect can be competent and that the DSM-5 symptoms can be misunderstood by equating individuals with the condition to the legal standard of competency.

Likewise, the DDA noted the fact that the psychologist could not score a portion of the malingering incompetence test because of Dominguez’s lack of responses.

The psychologist attributed such responses to the accused’s difficulties with communication, but DDA De Moura suggested that this could be due to his lack of education of the law. The DDA asked the psychologist about her questions to examine the accused’s mental competency, noting she had difficulty explaining some of the concepts as well.

The witness agreed with the DDA’s statement, “Just because an individual doesn’t know every intricacy of the law, does not mean they are incompetent.”

The DDA proposed that even though the accused may not know the answer to certain questions, it does not mean he does not understand the criminal process.

However, the doctor maintained that in the instant case, the accused’s mental disorder is affecting his ability to understand the terms.

The DDA pressed the psychologist on whether she observed the interaction between Dominguez and his attorney. Although she could infer based on her interactions with him, she admitted that she has not witnessed first-hand their interaction.

The DDA ended his cross-examination for the morning by proposing that in attorney-client relationships, the ability to foster trust can be separate from a mental defect. The expert witness hesitantly agreed but added that such distrust can also indicate a mental disorder.

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  1. Robert Canning

    Correction needed: The psychologist who testified about Mr. Dominguez’ competency is an employee of CDCR but did not complete her evaluation as part of her work for CDCR. She is also a psychologist who is a member of the local panel of examiners that the Yolo Superior Court uses to complete the examinations. Her work in this case is not connected to CDCR.

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