Sen Trial: Defense Witnesses

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First to take the stand for the Defense in the State vs. Dharminder Vir Sen trial in 4th Judicial District Court Thursday afternoon was Kyle Smith. He told the Court that Riley Larkins had bragged about being in a gang and that his reputation in the community is that he has killed people.

Smith told Sen's attorney, Tim Cotton, that Larkins has a teardrop tattoo on his cheek, which symbolizes that he has killed someone. Smith also said that Larkins has a reputation in the community as having threatened to kill people.

Prosecutor Matt Redle had no cross examination questions for Smith.

Next to take the stand for the Defense was Dr. Laura McCormick, considered a hostile witness, because she had actually been hired by the State to examine Sen.

Dr. McCormick stated that she'd interviewed family, friends, law enforcement and others, as well as hearing self-reports from Sen. She revealed that his family history was dysfunctional, and that by the time he'd reached his earlier teens, his mother arranged for him to move from Nebraska to live with his great aunt in Sheridan.

She told the Court that upon completing her evaluation, she diagnosed Sen with Conduct Disorder. State Statute says that in order to plead Not Guilty Because of Mental Illness or Deficiency, or NGMI, a person must be diagnosed according to adult standards, even if the defendant is younger than 18. McCormick said, “There are no juvenile standards to conduct an MSO, regrettably, and [Sen] was being tried as an adult, so that's what I used.”

On cross exam, Prosecutor Matt Redle said that there are really three prongs to being able to plead NGMI: First, the defendant had to have been suffering from mental illness or deficiency, and if not, it doesn't matter about conduct – incapacity has to be the result of mental illness. Second, the defendant has to be diagnosed as anti-social, and that cannot be determined on a person until they are 18 or older. Third, Conduct Disorder must be diagnosed with onset occurring before the age of 15.

On re-direct, Cotton said, “Mr. Redle hit the 'meat and potatoes' in that one can't diagnose someone with anti-social personality disorder until they're 18, and one can't diagnose a 15-year-old because the brain is not developed, correct?” Dr. McCormick responded, “No, you can't because he's not 18.” She did, however, concede that the personality is still developing.

Third to take the stand for the Defense was Dr. Ronna Dillinger, who works for the Wyoming State Hospital with a side practice in forensic evaluation and adolescent evaluations. Her purpose for the Defense was to poke holes in Dr. McCormick's findings. Cotton asked her if there should have been red flags when Sen refused to answer -- or showed discomfort in responding to -- questions about the crime. She said, “Yes, and she [Dr. McCormick] could possibly have checked with an attorney” as to why he was not forthcoming with information in that regard.

She said that generally, 15-year-old's are less mature, susceptible to outside influences, more likely to be coerced by others, which can in turn affect their ability to conform their behavior to the law.

On cross examination, Redle confirmed the criteria of diagnosing Conduct Disorder, some of which included picking fights, using a weapon upon another, causing harm on animals or other people, stealing property, breaking into homes, buildings or cars, lying, running away, staying out too late, being truant from school, and showing failing grades.

Redle also cited two of Sen's friends' testimony as indicating that Sen had often talked about wanting to be a gangster.

On re-direct, Cotton asked Dr. Dillinger that while one of the criteria of Conduct Disorder is illegal behavior, there is nothing that discusses volitional control. She agreed.

The Defense rested.

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