Poitra Trial: Day 3, Defense Expert Witness

Dr. Trent Holmberg of Salt Lake City, UT took the stand as the Defense team's expert witness. Dr. Holmberg is Board Certified in Adult and Forensic Psychology, and has done hundreds of psych evaluations in Wyoming on inmates, as well as criminal responsibility evaluations.

Dr. Holmberg met in person with Dennis Poitra, Jr. on July 30th of this year, as well as reading Tiffany Blanchard-Reynolds' account of Poitra's extremely restless demeanor at her office last August 25th. He told the Court that while he was of the opinion that Junior was responsible for his behavior, he did have concerns.

His evaluation included reviewing the medications Poitra had taken before being discharged from Memorial Hospital on August 25th. Poitra had been in Memorial for about 30 hours, and while there, he'd been given a 2 mg dose of Ativan (Lorazepam) at 1 pm on the 24th, and a 200 mg dose of Seroquel at 9 pm on the 24th. Dr. Holmberg said that it is normal for an initial dose of Seroquel to be between 25 to 50 mg, but sometimes the first dose can be as high as 200 mg.

Dr. Holmberg said that Seroquel makes people “do” without thinking about whether what it is they're doing is right or wrong. He said the symptoms described by Blanchard-Reynolds were consistent with what he termed “Seroquel-Induced Akithisia”, which is a neurological response to medication that causes symptoms similar to what Poitra displayed at the DFS office.

During his testimony, Dr. Holmberg stated that concerning Poitra, looking from a diagnostic aspect of a forensic context, was based mostly on documentation. With Poitra, it was not possible for Dr. Holmberg to say with certainty that he had been suffering from Seroquel-Induced Akithisia without have personally witnessed it, but the symptoms described were consistent with S.A.

On cross examination, Matt Redle asked the doctor about the rarity of S.A. He replied that it is very rare, occurring in 1 to 3% of the population where Seroquel is prescribed. Redle asked if Poitra's behavior could instead be attributed to Anti-Social Personality Disorder, but on redirect, Dr. Holmberg said the the extreme pacing, fidgeting and restlessness were not symptoms attributed to ASPD. Rather, his actions more fit the cause/effect aspect of drug side-effects upon behavior. Dr. Holmberg said that the relation of complaints of a cluster of symptoms to a nearby effect of violence – whether to oneself or to another – can be close.

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