Psychotic Behavior Cited In Defense Of Mark Medley

March 03, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

"Mark stripped naked and said he was a fairy dancing on a moon beam."

So said psychologist David L. Shapiro, quoting the brother of accused murderer Mark Gregory Medley. Shapiro was explaining his conclusion that Medley -- who admits to using a steel rod to beat his frail, elderly parents to death in 1989 -- is "a severely disturbed psychotic."

In a trial that started Tuesday and is scheduled to resume tomorrow, Medley's lawyers are asking a jury to rule that the 37-year-old "social misfit" with a long history of drug and alcohol abuse should not be held criminally responsible for his parents' slaying. The defense has presented witnesses to confirm a theory that Medley's delusional thinking -- his parents were caring, but he found them threatening-- led him to kill them in a pre-emptive strike.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, say Medley is faking his mental illness, that he was sane enough to plan the killing and then, realizing he would be in trouble, tried to flee the country. State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee is seeking a sentence of life with no chance for parole.

The jury has heard a long list of bizarre behavior about Medley that dates back to 1977.

There's Medley, amid a drug-induced psychosis in 1978, mentioning that the CIA is controlling his brain. There's Medley, a year later, saying he heard voices telling him his house was on fire, prompting him to tear out the basement water pipes. There's Medley, while institutionalized in 1980, laughing to himself for no apparent reason and, when asked why he was sitting in a wheelchair, saying it helped him relax.

And there's Medley, described as being "addicted" to the telephone, pretending to have conversations with "hit men and drug dealers" when there was nothing more than a dial tone on theother end of the line.

But if there is a pattern to the bizarre behaviors attributed to Medley, it is a tendency to disrobe. He was found standing naked in the garden outside his parents' home in 1988, and he has been seen naked in the hallways of mental institutions.

The 11th-hour discovery of yet another incident caused a psychiatristwho had previously said Medley was schizophrenic -- but sane at the time of the slaying -- to change his mind Thursday, the third day of the trial.

Defense lawyers found out only four days before the trial that Medley was said to have been kicked out of a California detoxification camp less than a week before the slaying because of bizarrebehavior that included running naked through the woods.

That revelation led psychiatrist Neil H. Blumberg to testify Friday: "It is myopinion that at the time of this offense Mark Medley was insane."

Blumberg said he changed his mind about Medley after hearing Shapirotestify that a counselor at the California camp said Medley's bizarre behavior and resulting dismissal came just days before the June 14,1989 slaying of 77-year-old Joseph Caldwell Medley and 75-year-old Catherine Ann Medley in their house in the 1400 block of Virginia Avenue.

Blumberg's action stunned prosecutors, who pressed him for an explanation for his "about face." The strengthened defense case also prompted prosecutors to arrange for rebuttal witnesses -- including as many as three doctors -- to testify when the trial resumes tomorrow. Jurors were sent home for the weekend after the defense rested its case Friday afternoon.

Many criminal trials take unexpected turns during their course, but few have provided as many surprises as the Medley case. The former Yale University student and University of Maryland graduate came within an inch of pleading guilty to two counts offirst-degree murder before withdrawing his plea in the middle of a court hearing last November.

In an otherwise routine pretrial hearing last week, Medley insisted that his lawyers ask Judge Eugene M. Lerner to remove himself from the case. Medley believed the judge was an instrument of the devil.

Lerner denied that motion.

When the trial began, Assistant Public Defender J. Michael Wachs told the juryMedley killed his parents, but -- because he was "actively psychotic" at the time -- was incapable of premeditated murder and was guilty of only manslaughter.

As the trial has unfolded, it has become clear the jury will be asked to answer two questions: Is Mark Medley guilty of murder or any other crime? If so, was he insane at the time and thus not criminally responsible?

As lawyers for the two sides have clashed in their attempts to shape testimony to favor their cases,the frequent objections, debates over court procedure and bench conferences have been an obvious source of irritation to Lerner. In one bench conference in the cramped courtroom, Lerner was heard to tell Wachs, "You don't run this courtroom. I run this courtroom."

In another exchange, Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris, who is prosecuting the case along with Weathersbee, sarcastically said to Wachs, "You tell me when I can talk." The lawyers could then be heard arguing over whether they were talking too loud at the bench and allowing jurors to hear their discussions.

Medley, who has stared down at a table throughout the trial and rarely looked up, gave the lawyersand the judge something else to think about Thursday. Medley, who has been described as being obsessed with the devil and religion and has carried a Bible throughout the trial, suddenly turned to the jury and flashed a picture of the Virgin Mary.

Yet another bench conference was called, but no action was taken and the trial was resumed.

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