Doctors Say Murder Defendant Is Faking Insanity

November 20, 1990|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

His shoulder-length hair looks like it hasn't been combed in weeks. He hasn't shaved in months. He drools. He stares at the floor for hours at a time as, on this day, he has little to say.

He is Robert James Smith, 18, of Selby, charged with first-degree murder. Police say Smith walked into his father's bedroom last March 17 and, while his father strummed a guitar, shot him once in the head with a 30-30 rifle. Hours later, Smith offered the police an explanation.

He thought Charles Amos Smith was the devil.

Smith and his lawyers went to court yesterday asking Circuit Judge Bruce C. Williams to rule him mentally incompetent to stand trial.

The question: Is Bobby Smith faking it? The psychiatrists and psychologists from the state health department's Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center say that's exactly what he's doing.

These doctors say Smith is anti-social, he's got two types of personality disorders, he's got a history of drug dependence. But, say the Perkins doctors, Smith is not psychotic. He is, in their lingo, "malingering" -- faking it to avoid prosecution.

"Further, Mr. Smith's behavior in a courtroom can be expected to appear bizarre," Perkins staff psychologist Stephen F. Curran wrote last week.

Smith, who has split his time between Perkins and the county Detention Center since his arrest last March, stared at the floor, constantly pumping his leg through most of yesterday's hearing.

Witnesses said Smith has become increasingly withdrawn. Psychologist Lorraine W. McDermott said she found Smith on Oct. 31 in what appeared to be a catatonic stupor. "He was out of it -- totally," she said.

Smith's mother, Mary Jane Smith, carried a bouquet of a single peach-colored rose surrounded by baby's breath into the courtroom. She took the stand and told the court that in late May 1989, her son told her he had overdosed on PCP.

Bobby Smith's 28-year-old brother, Charles Smith, later testified that Bobby, after overdosing on "three dimes" of PCP, stayed awake for three or four days, reading the Bible. Mary Jane Smith recalled, "He would talk fast. It was almost like his mind was working a thousand miles a minute."

Within days, mother and brother testified, Bobby, previously not a particularly religious young man, was claiming to be Jesus Christ. He announced plans to look for his first "disciple."

Hospitalized during the summer of 1989, Bobby returned to school in the fall, only to disappear for three days. His mother said he returned, smiling and claiming to have been walking the whole time.

Later, Bobby claimed to be God, his mother testified. For Christmas, he asked for only a pair of white dress pants, a white shirt and a necklace with a cross. He baptized his mother and his grandmother.

But mother and brother testified Bobby began accusing several people of being the devil, even calling the pastor at his church a "spawn of Satan."

Prosecutor Ronald M. Naditch said he will call about four experts to the stand today to say Smith is competent to stand trial. Defense attorneys J.

Michael Wachs and Pamela L. North said they would produce two experts to say Smith is incompetent.

Yesterday, Wachs showed a 40-minute videotape of Smith being interviewed Oct. 8 in the county jail. On it, Smith rambles and is hostile.

His attorneys ask him if he understands the insanity plea. "I agree it was insane to shoot my father," Smith says, "because killing is insane."

Asked whether his father was abusive -- a prosecution claim -- Smith says, "I'd say he scared the crap out of me. He'd come home drunk and beat up my mother.

"He sold me out. He sold me out to the world," Smith says, without further explanation.

In the tape, Smith repeatedly says he wants to stop the destruction of the world. Again and again, he pleads to be released, saying, "I feel like I'm in a microwave here."

Smith also objects several times to being videotaped. "The camera is a soul-stealer," he says, adding that others, including his attorneys, are also trying to steal his soul. "You're working to damn me," Smith tells Wachs. "I'm not going to cooperate with damnation."

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