October 07, 2015 - 2:19 PM
KAMLOOPS — The forensic psychiatrist who examined the man accused of murdering his girlfriend said he could have suffered from psychosis caused by drug use at the time of the 16-year-old’s death, despite the accused pretending to be schizophrenic during their meetings.
Dr. Sunette Lessing conducted eight hours of interviews with Damien Taylor, 24, at the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre after he was arrested and charged with murdering CJ Fowler, his girlfriend whose body was found Dec. 5, 2012. Taylor’s lawyer, Don Campbell called Lessing as a witness in Taylor’s jury trial today, Oct. 7.
Lessing said she had no other evidence to help her write the 18-page psychiatric report other than Taylor’s narrative of the hours before Fowler’s death.
Taylor, who spent over a day on the stand, told the jury he experienced a drug psychosis after ingesting cocaine, heroin, meth, ecstasy and marijuana over a several-day bender in Kamloops. He said he blacked out after he and Fowler left the Royal Inland Hospital together around 3 a.m. Dec. 5 and woke up next to her body. He said he had the urge to run, changed his clothes so he could run faster and departed Kamloops on a Greyhound bus for Prince George.
“When we initially met, he wanted to convince me he was going through hallucinations. That was not the case," Lessing said. "I think he came to the interview with somewhat of a scripted plan."
Lessing said it was often the case for people charged with a serious offence to try displaying a psychological disorder.
While he may have faked a psychotic episode, Lessing said the accused scored poorly on a memory test she administered. She gave the accused five words to memorize but he was unable to recall them, she said.
“Mr. Taylor could learn the five words but needed two trials to remember the five words,” she said. “When asked to recall these words a few minutes later he was unable to recall these words despite learning them only five minutes ago."
Lessing said she believes Taylor already had impaired cognition before he began his drug use.
Campbell asked Lessing to explain how extensive meth use paired with no sleep, feeling threatened and little food would affect a person.
"All of that leads to a very fragile mental state. It’s kind of hard to think exactly what would happen at that moment. We know that meth intoxication is characterized by impulsivity,” she said.
Under cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Iain Currie asked Lessing to recount what Taylor told her about his reaction to meth. She said Taylor indicated he would get ‘sketched out,’ nervous and hyperactive while under the influence of meth.
Currie showed the doctor three security videos of Taylor on the night of the incident at the Greyhound station and at Royal Inland Hospital. All three showed Taylor walking slowly and calmly. On the Greyhound security video, Taylor walked into the station without Fowler and spent five minutes sitting still with his back to the door.
“That’s inconsistent with a significant level of intoxication for Mr. Taylor?” Currie asked.
“It’s difficult for me to say. In this video there’s no evidence of hyperactivity. But it’s hard to use this to get a full interpretation,” Lessing replied. "He appears calm in that few minutes. He does something with his bag and that’s all I can really say. Even people who are severely psychotic can have periods of calmness."
Currie’s cross-examination is expected to continue tomorrow.
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