The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 5, 2014

Doctor testifies about detailed mental evaluation of man charged in murder

BECKLEY — Jeremy James Lambert’s trial for the murder of Cyan Maroney continued Tuesday as the defense called its fourth witness, Dr. Lawson Bernstein Jr., to discuss Lambert’s medical conditions.

Lambert is accused of fatally stabbing Maroney, 25, on Oct. 2, 2011, but the defense is arguing his actions were caused by post traumatic stress disorder, a mood disorder and a mixed personality disorder.

Defense co-counsel Mary Dyer asked Bernstein, a forensic psychiatrist, to review his educational and employment background, as well as give the jury definitions of certain psychological terms.

Dyer and Bernstein also disclosed to the jury that Bernstein is being paid over $30,000 by the defense to provide his expertise during this trial.

“Obviously I’m being paid a lot of money for this case,” Bernstein said. “But I call them as I see them.”

He said he has been required to travel a great deal to and from Pittsburgh for this case, which is part of his fee.

Bernstein said he ordered an MRI and EEG scan to examine Lambert’s brain activity, but both of those exams yielded normal results.

His psychological testing, however, showed that Lambert suffers from PTSD, mood disorders, mixed personality disorders and alcohol dependency, according to Bernstein.

Dyer asked him if these disorders would allow someone to have the intention to kill someone.

These disorders, aside from the alcohol dependency, “negated his capacity to form homicidal intent,” Bernstein told the jurors.

He said Lambert’s psychological testing showed he “has a propensity, without much warning, to blow up.”

Bernstein described a PTSD sufferer as someone who experiences trauma, sees someone experience trauma or has the impending threat of trauma.

Dyer asked why certain members of the military suffer from PTSD, but others do not; Bernstein replied, “We all bring different risk factors to our life events.”

Bernstein said that PTSD sufferers are often prone to impulsive behaviors, to which Dyer asked, “Is an impulsive behavior an unplanned behavior?”

“Yes,” Bernstein answered.

Dyer mentioned that Lambert “self-medicated” with alcohol and Bernstein said it is common for PTSD sufferers to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, but these substances only temporarily reduce the symptoms of the disorder and ultimately make the disorder worse.

“Alcohol is not a good treatment for any psychiatric disorder,” Bernstein said.

Dyer then asked if a person could commit a violent act solely due to the disorders Lambert was diagnosed with; “Yes,” Bernstein said, but he noted that Lambert “does not meet the legal insanity test.”

During Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller’s cross examination, she went into a more detailed account of Bernstein’s fees. The amount total around $35,000, which is being paid for by the defense.

Bernstein was hired in August 2013 to assist with the Lambert defense, and Keller reviewed several other cases in which Bernstein was hired to provide his expertise.

She referenced the case of Gary Heidnik, who was convicted of kidnapping, torturing and raping six women he held captive in his Philadelphia basement.

Keller said Bernstein’s testimony during that trial was that Heidnik “should not be executed because he is paranoid and schizophrenic,” but Heidnik was sentenced to death by lethal injection in July 1999.

Keller then reviewed the definition of “malingering” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which means fabricating or exaggerating the symptoms of a mental disorder to, in Lambert’s case, get a lighter sentence.

She said many patients who are “faking it” report overpublicized symptoms, such as amnesia, but fail to mention lesser symptoms.

Bernstein agreed that he believes Lambert was having a “dissociative event” during the brutal slaying of Maroney, and he said Lambert was diagnosed with paranoia and paranoid delusions.

“Is there any evidence during the killing of Cyan Maroney that (Lambert) was frightened of her?” Keller asked.

“His fearfulness was regarding other issues,” Bernstein replied.

She asked if it was his testimony that Lambert lacks the capacity to conform to the constraints of the law; “I’m not testifying that he’s legally insane,” Bernstein said.

Keller asked, “Is there any evidence that (Lambert) didn’t know murder was wrong?” Bernstein said he did not have enough information to answer the question.

Keller reviewed the medical examiner’s testimony and repeated the number of stab wounds Maroney sustained on each part of her body.

“He lacked the capacity to intend to kill?”

“Yes,” Bernstein said.

“He lacked the capacity to premeditate the murder?”

Bernstein answered “yes” again.

Keller then made a stabbing motion in the air, showing the amount of time it would take to insert a knife into someone’s body and then remove it.

“This didn’t happen quickly, did it?”

Bernstein said, “There is an elapsed time required for each blow.”

Keller then read a letter written by Lambert while he was incarcerated at Southern Regional Jail in which he complains about the food; Keller said the defendant clearly lacks remorse if he is writing about food instead of his guilt about the murder.

“Destruction of evidence can show consciousness of guilt, correct?” Keller asked, referencing Lambert’s disposal of the bloody 14-inch Bowie knife.

“Yes,” Bernstein said.

During the redirect, Dyer asked Bernstein to verify again how someone can begin to suffer PTSD symptoms.

“Apprehension about a pending traumatic event (can cause PTSD).”

Dyer asked Bernstein if he knew that there were not scud attacks on Lambert’s platoon while he was in the military, if that would change his opinion of Lambert’s diagnosis.

“If there was no scud attack, that may cause me to change my opinion,” Bernstein said.

Dyer asked him if PTSD can cause memory impairment; “Depression and PTSD can cause memory impairment. To be 100 percent reliable, it’s impossible. I wouldn’t expect his rendition to be the same every time. I don’t think anyone could do that,” Bernstein said.

Keller then asked if many people who have Lambert’s symptoms would take a knife and plunge it into someone 23 times.

“The majority would not,” Bernstein said. “But there is a statistical risk for increased impulsivity with his conditions.”

Keller said, “This murder was only impulsive if you do not believe he went to Walmart, bought the knife, then drove over to Cyan’s house …”

Bernstein replied, “If the facts are as you spoke them, my conclusions are erroneous.”

The trial will continue at 9 a.m. today.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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