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State v. Stephenson

Superior Court of Delaware, Castle

June 20, 2014

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSHUA STEPHENSON, Defendant.

John W. Downs, Esquire and Barzilai K. Axelrod, Esquire Wilmington, Delaware - Attorneys for the State

Kathryn A.C. van Amerongen, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware – Attorney for the Defendant

MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

John A. Parkins, Jr. Superior Court Judge

The State has moved to exclude expert psychiatric testimony of Susan E. Rushing, M.D. on several grounds, including the testimony is unreliable and that she is not qualified to render some of her opinions. The court need not reach these issues because, under the circumstances of this case, it finds that Dr. Rushing's testimony would not be helpful to the trier of fact.

A. Facts

The State has advised the court that it will offer evidence that on Christmas Eve 2012 the defendant was visiting the home of his sister, the victim, Myron Ashley and their child, Myron Ashley, Jr. During defendant's visit the sister and her six-year-old son went upstairs, leaving defendant and the victim alone downstairs. Suddenly there was the sound of gunshots. The sister and her child ran downstairs and found the victim on the floor bleeding from the chest. When they got downstairs the six year old saw the defendant hide a weapon in the sofa and later told the police about what he had seen. When the sister tried to talk to the defendant he punched her in the face and fled out the door. The shooting victim was rushed to the Christiana Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The defendant was arrested the next day at his grandmother's house. Gunshot residue was found on defendant's hands.

B. Dr. Rushing's report

Defendant retained Dr. Rushing as a psychiatric expert. Her credentials are quite impressive. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Brain and Cognitive Science at M.I.T., followed by a Doctor of Medicine from Yale and a J.D. from Stanford. Dr. Rushing completed a Pediatrics internship, a residency in psychiatry and a residency in forensic psychiatry and is board certified in psychiatry. Currently she is employed as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

Dr. Rushing interviewed defendant on two different occasions. She interviewed family members and reviewed the defendant's school, department of labor, Family Court Department of Services for Children, medical and psychiatric records including Delaware Psychiatric Center records stemming from defendant's evaluation following the Christmas Eve events. Among other things, Dr. Rushing found a "several year history of psychotic, manic and depressive symptoms." Dr. Rushing arrived at the following diagnosis:

• Schizoaffective Disorder, bipolar type
• Neglected child
• Learning disability
• Rule out intellectual disability

After quoting Delaware's self protection statute, Dr. Rushing observed that "at the time of my interview, Mr. Stevenson was able to articulate facts that could support a ...


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