Insanity defense disputed

April 07, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

Disputing defense claims, an expert witness testified in Howard Circuit Court yesterday that Thurman A. Moore was criminally responsible for sexually assaulting a Guilford woman last August.

Dr. Barbara Wagar, a forensic and clinical psychologist, was one of seven witnesses Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell called to challenge Moore's insanity defense.

"He has an anti-social personality disorder that led him to commit an ongoing number of criminal acts," said Dr. Wagar, a psychologist at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup and chair of the psychology division at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va.

The disorder, characterized by maladaptive behavior, did not hinder Moore's understanding of right and wrong and "does not negate criminal responsibility," Dr. Wagar said.

She said the results of clinical interviews and psychological tests she conducted on Moore in January and February do not support defense claims that Moore suffers from schizo-affective disorder, which is marked by delusions, feelings of persecution and depression.

Moore, 47, has a 30-year history of sexual assaults and has been in prison most of his life. He was mandatorily released from the mental health unit at Patuxent Institution in July 1993 after serving 19 years of a 25-year sentence for rape.

Judge Cornelius Sybert is expected to decide Moore's future today.

Moore, of the 9400 block of Guilford Road, could be sentenced to life in prison if found criminally responsible or ordered to a mental institution for treatment if not.

During the lunch recess, Assistant Public Defender Avery Berdit said Moore's actions reflected a mental disorder made worse because he did not have enough trilafon, a drug used to control disorders.

"As a result, he could not conform his conduct according to the law," Mr. Berdit said. "There was stress in his life, no structure in his life, and he was not taking his medication. All this contributed to his mental disorder."

Moore pleaded guilty Monday to a first-degree sexual offense, a third-degree sexual offense and breaking and entering charge in connection with the Aug. 31, 1993, attack.

Moore, the second of nine children, was described as a frequent truant who admitted burning down a barn, shooting a horse and hanging a cat from a tree before setting it on fire while he was child growing up in Howard, Dr. Wagar said.

Detective Dave Steves said Moore appeared to be in a normal mental condition when he saw the defendant being pinned down by a local resident last August.

Detective Steves also said Moore was not considered mentally impaired because he was "clear-eyed" and recognized him to be a police officer, even though the detective was in plain clothes and had not identified himself.

"He looked up and said, 'Go ahead, put the cuffs on me and get this guy off me," said Detective Steves. "His words were clear and not slurred."

The bespectacled Moore -- wearing jeans, a white T-shirt and white sneakers -- sat quietly in the courtroom yesterday, chained at the ankles. A sheriff's deputy and two corrections officers sat nearby.

It was one of many times he had heard witnesses and lawyers discuss his actions and debate his fate.

In 1960, at age 14, he was convicted of assault with intent to rape after pointing a stolen gun at a neighbor's wife and ordering her to undress. The victim talked him out of it.

In 1962, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the same offense after knocking out a friend of his sister's and dragging her into the woods. He was preparing to rape her when a dog scared him off.

In 1974, he was convicted of raping and kidnapping an 11-year-old Columbia girl.

He was released July 14, 1993. Less than a month later, he was accused of continuing his long history of sexual assaults.

During interviews, Dr. Wagar said, Moore told her that shortly after his release, he was watching women at the Columbia mall and decided to return there the day of the attack. Earlier that day, he said, he shared wine and a marijuana cigarette with a family member.

When he headed for the mall, he passed Guilford Elementary School, in the 7300 block of Oakland Mills Road. There he saw several mothers -- including the victim -- walking their children to an afternoon kindergarten class, Dr. Wagar said.

Moore, wearing sunglasses and a straw hat, begged a female driver for a ride but was refused. He then followed the victim, who was on foot, to her home, where he pretended to be stranded with a broken-down car.

When the woman went to make a phone call for him, he forced his way into the house, claimed he had a gun and sexually assaulted her.

A nearby barbecue stand owner, armed only with a stick, came to her rescue and held Moore until police arrived.

Dr. Wagar said Moore "minimized his actions" during an interview five months later and denied assaulting the woman until he was shown police reports.

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