Friday, July 4, 2008

Doctor, Heal thyself

Pretty strange.

Doctor changing diagnosis after her report was done by reviewing a DVD of the interview?

Trying to lessen the favorable impact of the report for the defense to make it better for the State?

Is snake oil being sold in the Court?

You decide.

Reluctant psychiatrist takes stand in trial of man who killed guard
By Elizabeth Allen: Express-News

In the trial of a man who has pleaded guilty to the shooting death of a security guard, one of the most crucial defense witnesses is a psychiatrist who diagnosed the defendant with a chronic mental illness.

But according to attorneys, Laura Perches didn't want to testify.
Because part of Ali Almeaarek's defense is that Perches had diagnosed him as having paranoid schizophrenia, it was imperative she take the stand.

Perches — who evaluates the mental status of prisoners at Bexar County Jail — dodged defense lawyers as the trial date neared, according to court documents. She told them she had problems with her eyes and had a sick relative in Houston to care for. She gave an address in Beverly Hills, Calif., and said she could be found at Covenant House.

“To the best of counsel's knowledge,” defense lawyer Scott Sullivan wrote in a motion for continuance that was denied, “Covenant House is a shelter for runaway children, which has worldwide locations.”

Perches was reached, and when she showed up in court this week, she was wearing a dark visor over dark glasses over what she said were goggles. Judge Juanita Vasquez-Gardner of the 399th District Court had the courtroom's air conditioning and almost every light turned off.

Then Perches said she no longer was certain she could say that Almeaarek, who has pleaded guilty to the Nov. 10, 2005, shooting death of Dwight Peek, a security guard at the Greyhound bus station, had schizophrenia.

Perches had reviewed Almeaarek's DVD statements after diagnosing him but would not say why she had changed her mind.

It was an opportunity for prosecutor Kathy Cunningham to go over the differences between Almeaarek's statements to police and to Perches.

Almeaarek told police he'd killed Peek and his girlfriend, Shari Alvarez, and that he should be punished. But he told Perches that when he saw Peek, the security guard became the devil, and voices told Almeaarek he was going to die.

Cunningham suggested that Almeaarek was faking it. Referring to a report by Dr. Cesar Garcia, a longtime jail psychiatrist, she said, “He said, ‘I smell the aroma of malingering.'” She also noted two other psychiatrists, after interviewing Almeaarek, had determined he was sane.

Almeaarek told police he killed Alvarez hours after taking methamphetamine. When found, Alvarez's body had been stabbed dozens of times.

That slaying case is pending, but the jury in the case of Peek's death is hearing about it as they decide his punishment.

Under questioning from both sides, Perches repeatedly said she didn't understand the questions, that the lawyers already had her report and that it was all very complex.

“I know you're smarter than that — you're a doctor, right?” Cunningham said.

“What's the question?” Perches said. “Either I'm smarter, or I'm a doctor?”

Once it was time to bring the jury in, Perches said she could testify with the lights on.
Final arguments are expected today.