Expert Psychiatrist Testifies in Murder Trial

Written on Monday, April 15th, 2019 by Kimberly DelMonico
Filed under: ExpertWitness

An expert psychiatrist has testified that a murder defendant had a diminished ability to premeditate or deliberate the killing of his wife due to a dissociative episode.

The Crime

On December 5, 2013, Cynthia Grantham received a call from her brother-in-law, Joseph Levi Graham. Grantham was crying and said, “Cynthia, have you heard?”  Grantham told Cynthia that his wife, Constance, was dead. When Cynthia asked what happened, Grantham told her, “I shot her.  I shot her in the head.” Grantham told Cynthia to tell his brother not to come to his house because he had turned on the gas, that they would never see him again, and that he loved her.

Cynthia and her husband went to the nearby house of the sheriff, Maynard Reid. Reid sent a deputy to the Grantham house to do a welfare check.

The body of Constance Grantham was found with two gunshot wounds to the head and one gunshot wound to the chest. Joseph Levi Grantham was charged with first-degree murder in connection with his wife’s death. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Expert Testimony

Grantham’s defense attorney retained Dr. George Corvin to testify as an expert in forensic psychiatry. Dr. Corvin has been practicing general and forensic psychiatry since the early 1990s.

Dr. Corvin testified that he has spent about eight hours with Grantham over the past five years. He interviewed Grantham in June 2014, April 2015, May 2018, and October 2018. Dr. Corvin testified that he evaluated Grantham’s level of competency to stand trial. Dr. Corvin opined that Grantham had the capacity to do and understand what was needed of him to stand trial.

Dr. Corvin also evaluated Grantham’s mental state on the night that he killed his wife. To reach his conclusions about Grantham’s mental state, Dr. Corvin utilized Grantham’s first interview with detectives, his wife’s autopsy and medical records, Grantham’s medical records and workers compensation records, transcripts of interviews with Grantham’s family, photo of the victim’s autopsy and the Grantham’s home, and a video of Grantham’s first appearance in court.

Dr. Corvin concluded that Grantham was “very simple” and “marginally educated.” Dr. Corvin testified that Grantham had “seemed so limited” that he wondered if he was intellectually disabled. Grantham was given a Wechsler IQ test, which is designed to measure intelligence and cognitive ability in adults and older adolescents. Grantham scored a 94, which is within the range of average.

Dr. Corvin testified that, although Grantham’s Wechsler score indicated that Grantham’s innate intelligence was okay, his “fund of knowledge” was limited. According to Dr. Corvin, Grantham’s leaving school in the eighth grade combined with his life experiences caused Grantham to have a childlike view of that world that caused “his ability to understand and react well to stresses” to be “very limited.”

Dr. Corvin concluded that Grantham had an acute dissociative reaction to stressful events, which can lead to the experience of depersonalization and derealization. He opined that Grantham suffers from a schizotypal personality disorder, which can cause odd beliefs, magical thinking, bodily illusions, eccentric/peculiar behavior and social anxiety. Dr. Corvin stated that Grantham’s ability to premeditate or deliberate killing his wife was “diminished and complicated” due to a “period of dissociation.”

Verdict

The jury apparently rejected Dr. Corvin’s testimony. Gratham was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

About Kimberly DelMonico

Kimberly DelMonico is a licensed attorney in New York and Nevada. She received her law degree from William S. Boyd School of Law at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her undergraduate degree from New York University, where she studied psychology and broadcast journalism.

About Kimberly DelMonico

Kimberly DelMonico is a licensed attorney in New York and Nevada. She received her law degree from William S. Boyd School of Law at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her undergraduate degree from New York University, where she studied psychology and broadcast journalism.

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