Expert: Thorpe OK for trial
Scott Harlan Thorpe still suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and believes the FBI is out to get him, but the alleged murderer could handle going to trial, a psychiatrist said Thursday in Nevada County Superior Court.
Dr. Hadley Osran said Thorpe, the alleged gunman in a Jan. 10, 2001, shooting spree, showed “marked improvement” between two interviews.
The hearing, held to determine if Thorpe is mentally competent to stand trial, resumes Oct. 17 with more witness testimony before Judge Ersel Edwards.
Edwards must decide if Thorpe understands the charges and can assist in his own defense. The 42-year-old Smartville man didn’t attend Thursday’s hearing, which wasn’t required because it’s a civil proceeding.
Osran, chief forensic psychiatrist at Atascadero State Hospital, compared two interviews with Thorpe.
The first was in February 2001 and lasted 21/2 hours; the second, in June, lasted an hour.
The first time, Osran said, Thorpe understood that he faced three counts of murder and how the court functions. He also showed a trust of the court system.
“He felt that the charges against him were appropriate – at least they weren’t trumped up,” he said.
At the same time, Thorpe discussed a mass conspiracy against him that involved the FBI, the county Department of Behavioral Health Services and his therapist there, Dr. George Heitzman.
Thorpe couldn’t get his words out fast enough and repeatedly referred to a fictional character, “Agent Jacky,” who could help his case.
“His thoughts were so rambling and disorganized, it was hard to get anything coherent out of him,” Osran said under questioning by District Attorney Mike Ferguson.
Thorpe was deemed incompetent after that meeting with Osran and by others who interviewed him, and he was sent to state hospitals in Atascadero and Napa.
In their second meeting, Osran said, the interview took less time because Thorpe was more focused. He credited Thorpe’s therapy and stable hospital environment, along with a doubling of his anti-psychotic medication, Risperidone.
Thorpe could separate his delusions from the court proceedings, and he showed a willingness to work within the court system. The FBI still occupied his thoughts, but to a lesser degree.
“It was clear he still believed (the FBI conspiracy), so I didn’t go into that because I didn’t think it was going to get me anywhere,” Osran told Public Defender Thomas Anderson, who’s representing Thorpe.
Osran said two psychologists who interviewed Thorpe reached similar conclusions. The psychologists and a Napa State Hospital psychiatrist are expected to testify Oct. 17.
“I don’t disagree with their observations,” Anderson said after the hearing, “but I interpret them differently.”
Thorpe, he said, hasn’t shown he grasps the waiving of rights – for example, the rights a defendant loses by agreeing to a plea bargain.
Osran testified that the mental competency law doesn’t fully cover that area, and Thorpe wasn’t quizzed on it.
Thorpe is accused of killing three people and wounding two in back-to-back shootings at Behavioral Health and Lyon’s Restaurant.
Laura Wilcox and Pearlie Mae Feldman died and Judith Edzards was wounded at Behavioral Health, where Daisy Switzer was seriously injured jumping from a second-floor window. Mike Markle died and Rick Senuty was wounded at the restaurant.
Thorpe remains held without bail at Wayne Brown Correctional Facility.
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