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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wednesday, August 01, 2001
By Joel Rosenblatt, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
The mother of Richard Baumhammers, speaking publicly for the first time last night about her son’s conviction for a racially motivated killing rampage, said the jury that sentenced him to death “didn’t pay attention to his mental illness.”
In a brief telephone interview, Dr. Inese Baumhammers echoed the sentiments her husband, Dr. Andrejs Baumhammers, had expressed in a letter to KDKA-TV’s Andy Sheehan. Other television stations also reported last night that they received similar letters.
In May, a jury decided Richard Baumhammers, 36, should die by lethal injection for five counts of first-degree murder and hate crimes committed on April 28, 2000. All of Baumhammers’ victims were from racial, ethnic or religious minorities. Baumhammers is awaiting sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 27.
“We wanted the facts of Richard’s mental illness to speak for themselves, but unfortunately, the jury in its rush to give the death penalty did not pay attention to them,” said the letter, dated Thursday.
“In our love affair with the death penalty, the USA is in good company with such countries as communist China, communist North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, etc. Even Germany, which exterminated millions of people in concentration camps, no longer has the death penalty. Russia, which killed tens of millions in the gulags of Siberia, and even South Africa no longer have the death penalty.
“Here in the USA,” Andrejs Baumhammers wrote, “we are still executing the seriously mentally ill.” The letter concluded by saying sheets were enclosed “documenting factually Richard’s mental illness and psychiatric treatment.”
Inese Baumhammers faxed the same document to the Post-Gazette last night.
The document details 19 different psychiatrists and psychologists Richard Baumhammers saw, 17 different anti-psychotic, anti-depressant, and anti-anxiety medications he took, and three mental disorders he suffered from 1990 to the present.
The document also lists three different occasions when Richard Baumhammers was hospitalized for mental illness before the rampage.
Inese Baumhammers said her son’s mental health history and treatment ” was never all pulled together on one sheet of paper.” The jury did learn of their son’s disorders, treatment and medications, she said, but “on different days, at different times, and interspersed with testimony.
“I just know that any person reading that sheet would see that he is a seriously mentally ill person,” Inese Baumhammers said. “It’s all fact.”
When asked whether or not the list might have changed the jury’s mind, Inese Baumhammers said she wasn’t sure.
“That’s not for me to judge,” she said. “I just know they didn’t pay attention to his mental illness.”