Original article no longer available
North-West Arkansas Democrat and Gazette
BY DAVE HUGHES
Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2008
SEBASTIAN COUNTY – GREENWOOD – A Fayetteville psychiatrist said Wednesday that 85-year-old Autry Basham suffered from delirium brought on by pneumonia and a sleep disorder when he slashed the throat of his 83-year-old wife last year. The testimony of Dr. Robin Ross in Sebastian County Circuit Court in Basham’s firstdegree murder trial bolstered the defense’s contention that Basham of Mansfield is innocent of murder because of a mental disease or defect at the time he killed his wife of 64 years, Lola Marie Basham, on Aug. 27, 2007.
The jury trial before Circuit Judge James Cox began Monday and is expected to wrap up today. Ross testified that in an attempt to explain how Basham, who never had a reputation for violence and always got along with his wife, could have committed such a bizarre act, she concluded that Basham suffered from delirium. She said tension and anxiety Basham may have been feeling over the falling out between his wife and son Jerry Basham didn’t play a role in triggering the delirium.
Prosecutors have told jurors they believe Basham killed his wife after they argued the weekend before about her failing memory and her belief that their son didn’t pay as much attention to them as he should, given the financial and other help they gave him over the years.
Ross pointed out that Autry Basham had pneumonia, took the drug Paxil for anxiety and suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. All those factors, which were present on the day of Marie Basham’s death, inhibited his ability to get oxygen to his brain. A lack of oxygen can trigger delirium, she said, especially in the elderly. Delirium was defined as a disruption of consciousness and a change in perception that can come on rapidly and can come and go over time. It would have been possible for Basham, she said, to be delirious and still carry out a sequence of events in killing his wife.
In rebuttal, the prosecution called Little Rock forensic psychiatrist Raymond Molden who testified there was no direct evidence that Basham suffered from delirium. He said the fact that Basham called his son and daughterin-law before killing his wife and then carried out the series of actions in killing his wife showed that he took steps in a logical sequence to bring about a result. Following a logical sequence of steps, he said, was inconsistent with a person suffering from delirium.
Paul Deyoub, a forensic psychologist with the Arkansas State Hospital in Little Rock, testified for the state that he didn’t believe Basham was delirious when he killed his wife. He said he didn’t believe Basham’s contention that he didn’t remember anything about the killing, and that his first memory that day was waking up in the hospital. He said nearly all defendants charged with domestic homicide that he has evaluated claim to have no memory or some loss of memory of the crime.