Muth Competency Hearing to Span Several More Days
Experts will continue to testify next week about Albrecht Muth's competency to stand trial for the Viola Drath murder case.
Medical experts Tuesday continued their testimony about murder suspect Albrecht Muth's mental faculties and his ability to stand trial. Judge Russell F. Canan will hear arguments and decide if Muth is competent to face a jury in March.
Muth's late wife, Viola Drath, was found dead in their Georgetown home in August 2011. Muth is being held at St. Elizabeths mental hospital and is charged with her death.
Monday and Tuesday two experts, one for the defense and one for the prosecution, offered starkly different interpretations of Muth's behavior and his ability to face the charges against him in court.
Dr. Shawn Agharkar, an expert brought in by Muth's defense team, said Muth is delusional and not competent to stand trial.
"Muth is factually competent, but he is not rationally competent because of his delusion," he maintained Tuesday.
Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner continued to press Agharkar about whether the personas Muth presents over time were lies rather than delusions.
In one interesting revelation, Kirschner said that on the night of Drath's death there is a Google search history from Muth's computer that includes the terms "Mexican Extradition" and "Crossing the Canadian border."
Kirschner said there are multiple examples of Muth making "volitional choices" to flee or protect himself, including the time when he left DC for Miami, Fla. when there was an outstanding warrant in his name for a domestic abuse case.
But to Agharkar the delusion could have still "played a role" in his reactions.
Agharkar argued that Muth's determination to present himself as an Iraqi general and to blame his wife's death on an Iranian "hit" gone wrong render him incapable of assisting counsel in his own defense. The Iraqi general persona is part of a long-standing delusion that he believes himself to be a spy, explained Agharkar.
Dr. Robert Phillips, an expert for the prosecution, said Muth was not delusional, but rather a master manipulator capable of facing trial.
"I believe he has absolute control over the lies that he tells," Phillips said Tuesday.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Craig Hickein pushed Phillips on Muth's rigidity to the Iraqi general defense, suggesting that it was a "fixed, false" understanding, as a delusion is defined.
That Muth chooses to "make a bad decision" by sticking with the Iraqi general and Iranian hit scenario, does not mean he is not competent.
"Making a bad decision does not equate to incompetence," said Phillips.
Moreover he said someone could be delusional and still be competent, because the delusion does not necessarily impede the ability to assist counsel.
Hickein also questioned Phillips on the methodology behind his reports and about his conversations with Muth. Their tense exchange and grueling back-and-forth prompted several interjections from Canan.
The defense's core concerns centered on what they suggested was Phillips' failure to consider several tests that demonstrated Muth has a cognitive deficiency of some sort.
Further proof of those deficiencies is that Muth did not have a significantly sedated response to antipsychotic drugs. Agharkar testified someone who is not psychotic would be sedated and sleeping most of the time.
But Phillips insisted that tested mental deficiencies do not necessarily impact day-to-day life.
"Muth has compensated for them to the extent that they are not impairing him," he opined.
The hearing will resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday and will likely continue through lunch time Wednesday. The prosecution will call one additional expert witness and one civilian witness. The defense will call two expert witnesses. Canan also set aside Dec. 18 and 19, should the hearing not finish next week.