Psychiatrist: Sadowski was insane at time of crime — (The Daily Breeze)

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The Daily Breeze

Nov 18, 2009

Nov 18, 2009 (Daily Breeze – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — Nov. 18 — A forensic psychiatrist testified Tuesday that he believes William Sadowski was legally insane when he dragged a Los Angeles International Airport Police officer to his death more than four years ago.

“He was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the crime,” Dr. Gordon Plotkin told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury, summarizing the definition of legal insanity.

The jury — which earlier this week convicted Sadowski of first-degree murder, carjacking and other crimes — must now decide if the 51-year-old should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury is the same except for one panelist who was excused Tuesday morning by Judge Lance Ito because he had to wake her up during testimony the previous day.  Also, other jurors reported that she was using her cellular telephone, possibly to send text messages or e-mails, after he did so.

She was replaced by a female alternate.   Plotkin walked the jury through Sadowski’s history of mental illness, which began in the early 1980s with a diagnosis of major depression.

Several suicide attempts and hospitalizations followed, Plotkin said.

On April 5, 2005, just a few weeks before he killed Officer Tommy Scott, a psychiatrist met with the divorced father of two and noted that Sadowski was off his medications and refused treatment.

Two days later, Sadowski was admitted to a hospital after he was found standing naked in front of a church. Sadowski told officers he was naked because he wanted to leave Earth for heaven, and that’s how he came into the world.

The next day, the involuntary hold was lifted and he was released, Plotkin said.

By early April 2005, Sadowski’s diagnosis changed to bipolar disorder. Plotkin said symptoms of the illness include clinical depressive episodes in which the person can’t eat, sleep or focus. One who suffers from it might also experience persistent feelings of helplessness, followed by manic periods of racing thoughts and speech, and possibly delusions and hallucinations.

To reach his opinion, Plotkin said he considered witnesses’ observations of Sadowski in the days and hours before he commandeered Scott’s patrol car on Lincoln Boulevard on April 29, 2005.

“The episode was driven by mental illness rather than someone who decided he was going to carjack an officer’s car and drive away,” Plotkin said.

Sadowski’s stated goal during the episode was to kill himself to save a young Russian woman from hell. But Plotkin said Sadowski wasn’t simply on a suicide quest, but was in a delusional and psychotic state.

“He chose to do these things at that particular moment in time based on his illness,” Plotkin said during questioning by Deputy Public Defender Irene Nunez.

Plotkin said he met with Sadowski three times after Scott’s death, and, by the last visit on July 6, 2005, the medications appeared to have taken effect. Sadowski was having trouble making sense of his actions.

Plotkin said it is “extremely rare” for him to conclude that a defendant is legally insane, adding that he’s evaluated hundreds of such cases.

During opening statements in the penalty phase Monday, Deputy District Attorney Linda Loftfield said she believed the jurors would find that Sadowski was sane.

She suggested that the former aerospace software engineer embellished his symptoms to continue collecting $4,000 a month in disability payments to fund his world travels.

Also on Monday, Sadowski’s brother-in-law testified that he and his wife were concerned after they began receiving upsetting phone calls and e-mails from Sadowski in 2004.

James Kentros said Sadowski would “talk incessantly” and scream, and didn’t make sense.

The trial is expected to continue for about a week, with more mental health experts slated to take the stand.

If the jury finds Sadowski was sane, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. Otherwise, he will be sent to a state mental hospital. City News Service contributed to this article.

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