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Frustrated judge sends accused killer for another evaluation

October 29, 2013

 

PublicOpinionOnline.com CHAMBERSBURG — Accused murderer Marcus Wallace will have another involuntary commitment and mental evaluation after York County Senior Judge John. C. Ulher found his treatment at Torrance State Hospital lacking.

A status hearing was held on Thursday to review the treatment Wallace, 42, received there, and to hear testimony of his condition from the treating psychiatrist.

Wallace is facing first- and second-degree murder, burglary, criminal trespass, attempted criminal homicide, aggravated assault and criminal mischief charges for which District Attorney Matt Fogal is seeking the death penalty. Wallace allegedly bludgeoned Consuella “Consi” Wallace, 70, on Dec. 10, 2009 when he was burglarizing her home. Consi was his adoptive mother, and she died from her injuries in February, 2010.

Daleep Kara Rathore, a psychiatrist at Torrance State Hospital, testified by conference call on Thursday morning, and Judge Uhler asked him to discuss his treatment and recommendations for Wallace.

When Rathore first met with Wallace, Rathore noted that his “mood was low” and that he was feeling paranoid, Rathore testified. Wallace mentioned he felt that he was almost kidnapped, which Rathore clarified he believed was said due to a level of hopelessness Wallace was feeling.

Rathore didn’t notice any weight loss, hearing of voices or other hallucinations, and started Wallace on a drug regimen of Resperdal M, an antipsychotic drug. Rathore noted that he didn’t feel Wallace was schizophrenic, but rather wanted to treat the paranoia personality traits he was displaying.

Wallace was given a recommendation to continue his medicine regime, and showed no behavior problems in his two months of treatment. Previously Wallace was found to have a lot of the paranoia directed at his council and the case they were presenting for him. On Thursday, Rathore claimed that was no longer the case.

“[Wallace] showed understanding of legal personnel, including the positions of his attorney, the judge and the district attorney,” Rathore said. “He feels comfortable with his current attorney, trusts him and believes he can work with him.”

Fogal had no questions for Rathore, but Wallace’s defense attorney Justin McShane and court appointed mental health counsel Ed Steckle addressed him.

Steckle asked clarifying questions about Wallace’s medication, and brought up that Resperdal M is typically used in schizophrenia cases. Rathore stated that because of the lack of delusions and hallucinations, he did not believe Wallace was schizophrenic, but still wanted to treat his paranoia, which the medication is approved for.

Steckle also asked about a portion of Rathore’s report, where Wallace refused to get blood work done even after Rathore counseled him that morning. Rathore stated that he believed there was “some kind of paranoia” present at the time.

However, Rathore said that despite the presence of paranoia, he still felt Wallace was stable, as of when he left Torrance State Hospital.

McShane was the next to question Rathore, and asked approximately how much time Rathore believed he spent with Wallace directly. After running through the few sessions, it was estimated at a little less than two hours over two months.

McShane also questioned the environment of the hospital, and Rathore was able to describe the “less restrictive” environment where Wallace had been staying. Rathore told McShane that he had not followed up on how Wallace was doing since he left the hospital 13 days ago.

The last line of questioning from McShane surrounded the kind of background information Rathore used to make his diagnosis and treatment plans. Rathore explained that much of his treatment came from tests that were done by technicians whose results he then reviewed. McShane said that he had sent Rathore records of Wallace’s three previous commitments, including two at Chambersburg Hospital and one at Temple University Hospital. He asked if Rathore had read any of them, which Rathore testified he did not.

McShane appeared stunned by his answer, and had no further questions after that. Instead, Judge Uhler had a few more questions, more about how long Rathore had been with the state system and what other hospitals work within the same system. Rathore confirmed that the only other hospital in the area is Norristown State Hospital.

After that, the call was ended and the court was open for discussion. McShane very quickly stated that he was shocked that Rathore did not review the records given to him, and that he wanted a second opinion that looked at his entire commitment history before they moved forward to trial.

DA Fogal did not agree, stating: “I think given the doctor’s opinion, we should be able to schedule a trial and proceed.”

Judge Uhler asked if Wallace was still taking his medication, but a call to Franklin County Jail was needed in order to find out.

After a 20 minute recess, the judge called two women who worked in the jail for details of Wallace’s time there.

First, Melissa Flood, a director of their treatment department, testified that she had no recent incident reports relating to Wallace, but that there had definitely been some previously. She could not give details off hand, but she knew there were reports written about him.

McShane asked Flood if she was the one he spoke with about sending Rathore all of Wallace’s records, which she confirmed to be true.

Next, registered nurse Suzanne Murphy, the charge nurse, was called to ask about whether Wallace was still following his medication regimen.

Murphy testified that he had not been compliant with the medicine regimen anymore. She estimated that on Oct. 10 he refused his medication, and has continued to refuse ever since. On Oct. 18, there were “communications” made to Wallace to explain the consequences of not taking his medications, but he still refused.

After her testimony, both the defense and Commonwealth rested their cases. McShane only added that he wanted to “make sure that we try this case once and we do it correctly.”

“I would suggest to the court that if we make an error, we err on the side of prudence,” McShane said.

Judge Uhler went on to emphasize that he is acutely aware of the right to a speedy trial, and that he typically does everything he can to ensure this right.

“Needless to say, I’m a bit frustrated,” Uhler said. He was surprised that the evaluation undertaken by Rathore over two months was only two hours long, and that it was “bolstered by the reports of other technologists, and were not those of the psychiatrist.”

Uhler was also upset that Rathore did not review the reports of Wallace’s previous commitments. He wanted to make sure that all the information was examined before proceeding to trial.

“I feel in peril of not being able to do so,” Uhler said. “Based upon these circumstances, begrudgingly, we need a second opinion.”

Uhler hopes for a “thorough and completely examination that includes the previous commitments,” as well as discussion with Wallace on his decision to discontinue his medication.

McShane was ordered to send a date-stamped copy of the records he plans to send to Norristown State Hospital to the District Attorney’s office, and court was adjourned.

This is the fourth time Wallace’s competency has come into question since 2010. Most recently, in early June, Wallace was set to begin a three-week trial, but instead questions of his mental stability lead to his commitment to Torrance State Hospital.

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