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The Washington Post
By Theresa Vargas, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Brandon M. Crawford, a man whom prosecutors described as “desensitized to the idea of killing,” was sentenced to life in prison last week.
Crawford was convicted of two counts of capital murder and one count of burglary in November for the 2001 slaying of his neighbor Paul Domaszek. Domaszek was asleep on the floor of his Woodbridge apartment when Crawford slipped in through a sliding glass door and stabbed him repeatedly, authorities said. Two months later, Crawford killed again.
One of the capital murder convictions was for killing two people in a three-year span. The other was for murder in the commission of a robbery.
Because he was 17 at the time, Crawford could not be sentenced to death. Instead, he faced a mandatory life sentence, which Circuit Court Judge Lon E. Farris handed down Thursday. He also sentenced Crawford to 20 years in jail for burglary.
Crawford stood with his head bowed, showing little emotion as Farris issued the sentence. When asked whether he had anything to say, Crawford shook his head.
Crawford’s attorney, Michael F. Devine, told the judge that his client suffered from a serious mental illness and that he needed help.
“We have created a mental health system in this country that doesn’t work and particularly didn’t work in the case of Brandon Crawford,” Devine said. “Although all the signs were there, the system entirely failed.”
Devine said he plans to appeal on the basis that the judge did not allow the defense to present an insanity plea for Crawford. Before the killings, Crawford had been hospitalized more than a half-dozen times, the first in Florida after beating a man.
Domaszek, 40, was found in September 2001, stabbed dozens of times, with some wounds so deep that his heart, both lungs, spleen and stomach had been hit, according to court testimony. Some of the cuts were done after he was killed, according to testimony. Authorities said they think Crawford might have repeatedly gone to and from the apartment after the killing.
Crawford wasn’t a suspect in Domaszek’s death until after he was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Walter Otis, a Virginia Beach hotel clerk, in November 2001 and was forced to submit a DNA sample. That sample came up in the state’s DNA databank in 2004 as a match to the blood found three years earlier on Domaszek’s bathroom wall.
Prosecutors described the purpose of the second trial as “public safety.” Crawford was serving a life sentence for the Virginia Beach murder and had the possibility of early release. In this case, he would not.
© 2007 The Washington Post Company
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Brandon Michael Crawford v. Commonwealth of Virginia, – (CourtListener.com)
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY
Brandon Michael Crawford (“Crawford”) appeals his convictions for two counts of capital murder in violation of Code § 18.2-31 (murder in the commission of a robbery and murder of more than one person in a three-year period) and a single count of burglary with the intent to commit murder in violation of Code § 18.2-90. The Commonwealth moved in limine to bar Crawford from presenting an insanity defense. After a pretrial hearing, the circuit court granted the Commonwealth’s motion. The sole question presented in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in granting the Commonwealth’s motion in limine. According to Crawford, the trial court did err because the evidence presented at the hearing on the Commonwealth’s motion was sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that, at the time of the killing, Crawford met the applicable legal standard for an insanity defense. For the following reasons, we disagree and affirm.
The evidence is undisputed that, in September of 2001, Crawford entered the apartment of Paul Domaszek in Manassas, Virginia and stabbed him to death. There is no evidence that Crawford and Domaszek knew each other. Police did not suspect Crawford in the killing until July of 2004, when they discovered that a DNA profile generated from samples of blood found at the scene of Domaczek’s killing matched the DNA Crawford submitted to the Virginia DNA database. Crawford’s DNA was added to the database after his sentencing in June 2004 for a second murder in Virginia Beach. The second murder took place approximately one month after police discovered Paul Domaszek’s body in Manassas.
A Prince William County grand jury returned indictments against Crawford on October 3, 2005. The trial court ordered an evaluation of Crawford’s sanity at the time of the offense pursuant to Code § 19.2-169.5. William Stejskal, a clinical psychologist, interviewed Crawford for approximately eight hours and thoroughly reviewed Crawford’s medical records.
Dr. Stejskal submitted a report to defense counsel, dated August 8, 2006. Ten days later, Crawford gave notice, pursuant to Code § 19.2-168, that he intended to put his sanity in issue at trial. On the Commonwealth’s motion, the circuit court ordered a second evaluation of Crawford’s mental state at the time of the offense. Leigh Hagan, also a clinical psychologist, interviewed Crawford and reviewed his medical records, including the earlier report of Dr. Stejskal. After receiving Dr. Hagan’s report, the Commonwealth moved in limine to bar Crawford from presenting an insanity defense.
At a pretrial hearing, the defense argued that Crawford could produce evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find by a preponderance of the evidence that Crawford met the legal definition of insanity at the time of the offense. In support of Crawford’s position, defense counsel submitted Dr. Stejskal’s report, thirty-one other medical records documenting Crawford’s mental health history from April 2001 until February 2005, the testimony of Eleanor Heath, a therapist at the Prince William County jail, and the testimony of the defendant’s mother.
In support of the motion in limine, the Commonwealth submitted Dr. Hagan’s report. After hearing argument, the trial court granted the Commonwealth’s motion in limine.
Proffered Evidence of Crawford’s Mental State
At the time he killed Paul Domaszek, Crawford lived with his mother and younger brother in Woodbridge, Virginia. His mother worked for an agency that employs nurses and sends them to different assignments in hospitals across the country. Because of Ms. Crawford’s work, the family moved frequently. Crawford lived in Florida at the time of his first involuntary hospitalization on April 18, 2001. From Florida, the Crawfords moved to Woodbridge, Virginia in August. They moved again, when Ms. Crawford received a new assignment, this one in the Tidewater area of Virginia, in late October of 2001. While they were staying at the Marjac Suites Hotel in Virginia Beach, on November 13, 2001, Crawford killed Walter Otis. Crawford was arrested the same day and has been incarcerated or hospitalized ever since.
Ms. Crawford testified that her son’s behavior and mental health seemed normal until late 2000 and early 2001. Around that time, Crawford stopped interacting with other people, had trouble sleeping, and had conversations with characters on television. She remembers him pacing around the house for long periods of time and cursing, sometimes screaming, at no one in particular. Ms. Crawford also testified that her son thought people were peering through their back windows, watching him. He would occasionally sit in his room with the lights off, mumbling to himself.
The thirty-one medical records document a number of hospitalizations. Each followed what were apparently unprovoked attacks upon strangers or family members, and geographically follows his mother’s work changes. In April 2001, he was hospitalized in Florida after threatening a stranger. He was released after treatment with anti-psychotic and mood stabilizing medications. In a Florida hospital, he was diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder 1 and prescribed medication. The medical records indicate that at the time he was discharged on May 2, 2001, he exhibited no signs of psychosis and denied having hallucinations.
In June 2001, Crawford threatened his brother and was hospitalized in Florida. He was released two days later following medication. On July 10, 2001, he threatened his mother and was returned to the hospital. His admission information reflects a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but states that he denied having hallucinations, and he denied having homicidal or suicidal thoughts. Crawford was hospitalized, again in Florida. Once again, his behavior became calm when he took his prescribed medication, and his psychotic symptoms disappeared during his time in the hospital. He was released again on July 23, 2001.
Dr. Stejskal’s report indicates that this diagnosis is used when the patient has “all of the hallmark symptoms of schizophrenia, but has not been acutely symptomatic for a full 6 months.”
Dr. Hagan’s report includes a similar description.
Addressing the medical records of the Florida hospitalizations, Dr. Stejskal concluded that a psychotic disorder was present . . . but the clinical presentation/course did not neatly coincide with the diagnostic criteria for one of the specific major psychotic mental illnesses. This is often the case during the initial emergence of a psychotic disorder (i.e. the prodromal phase of the condition) in younger individuals who later exhibit a full schizophrenic, schizoaffective, or Bipolar Disorder.
Dr Stejskal explained: “The prodromal period of a major mental illness . . . is that period early in the emergence of the condition when the signs and symptoms begin to occur, usually in a less intense prominent and persistent form than they will eventually take once the condition has fully effloresced.”
Obtaining new work, his mother moved from Florida to Woodbridge, Virginia. Following a month in foster care in Florida, Crawford rejoined his mother and brother in Woodbridge on August 28, 2001. On September 25, 2001 – after the Domaszek killing but before the police or Crawford’s family learned that Crawford was the killer – Crawford was admitted to the Psychiatric Unit of the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland after attempting to choke his mother. The hospital’s progress notes suggested that he had not been taking his medication. He was not discharged until October 17, 2001. While at the hospital, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and, at the time of his discharge he was taking zyprexa (anti-psychotic), depakote (mood stablizer), and paxil (anti-depressant). Crawford moved with his mother to the Tidewater area of Virginia in November of 2001 where he was arrested for killing Walter Otis.
Several medical records and the testimony of Eleanor Heath confirm that Crawford’s illness continued during his incarceration. Ms. Heath, a therapist at the Prince William jail, testified that, when Crawford was at the jail, he was hallucinating and mumbling to unseen persons. He also spread feces around his cell, ate food from the toilet, and tried to insert food into his anus. Crawford’s behavior became normal again when he resumed taking his medication.