Md. man pleads insanity in Cape robbery

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Alwyn S. Whitehead Jr., a forensic psychologist, testifies at the trial of William Marcus White III on Tuesday at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse. Whitehead, a witness for the defense, was questioned about White's mental state. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

When William M. White III, 32, of Mechanicsville, Md., robbed the US Bank in Cape Gir­ardeau on Aug. 12, 2006, he was completely unaware of where he was and that he was committing a felony, a psychologist testified Tuesday at White's trial before Circuit Judge William L. Syler.

The testimony was part of a defense put forth by White's attorney, assistant public defender Chris Davis, to prove White was in a state that rendered him unable to distinguish right from wrong.

In Missouri, someone can be found not guilty if it can be shown that mental defect rendered the person incapable of knowing and appreciating the nature, quality or wrongfulness of his conduct.

Aaron Randolph, who had been a teller at the US Bank, at 3060 William St., testified that White walked up to his window and slipped him a piece of paper that said "I have a gun. No cops. I'll kill. Hundreds and fifties."

Another bank employee, Brandon Lomar, testfied he saw White flee the building out the side entrance and escape in a white Ford pickup.

William Marcus White III, shown here in a bank surveillance video, is standing trial for bank robbery. (Submitted photo)

A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper caught up with White less than 20 minutes later in Sikeston, Mo.

A search of White's truck by Detective Joseph Tado of the Cape Girardeau police uncovered $2,600 in $100 bills in a cubbyhole near the dashboard.

Dr. Alwyn S. Whitehead Jr., a psychologist from Springfield, Mo., who specializes in evaluating defendants in criminal cases, testified that White's abusive childhood coupled with recent relationship problems with his then-fiancee caused him to disconnect from his conscious mind.

White slipped into a "disassociative fugue," a defense mechanism in which a person pushes traumatic memories or events out of their conscious mind by traveling to a new location and assuming a new identity, Whitehead said during direct examination.

"I believe at the time he committed this crime that he was suffering from a disassociative fugue and had no idea of his actions when he left Maryland," Whitehead said.

According to Whitehead's evaluation, done in February in the Butler County Jail, the defendant was not capable of distinguishing right from wrong.

"Overall, his scores rank him more severe than 92 percent of people in a psychiatric ward," Whitehead said.

During cross-examination by Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, Whitehead admitted there was no clear test to determine whether the fugue was genuine.

Swingle argued that White could have been "malingering," or faking the disorder to escape punishment.

He further argued that White committed a string of four bank robberies, beginning in California, and successfully stole $9,950 previously, showing an organized plan to get money. Whitehead countered that he thought it was just a means of survival for White once he left home.

The jury is expected to hear expert testimony from the state's psychologist today. The trial reconvenes at 9 a.m.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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