State v. Ellis

In State v. Ellis, 136 Wn.2d at 500, 963 P.2d 843 (1998) defendant was charged with two counts of aggravated first degree murder for the deaths of his mother and half-sister. The culpable mental state for that crime was "premeditated intent to cause the death of another person." Id. at 500 n.1. Defendant filed a motion to admit expert testimony on diminished capacity by Dr. Lloyd I. Cripe, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist, and Dr. Mark B. Whitehill, Ph.D., a clinical and forensic psychologist. Id. at 502. 1111 Defense expert Dr. Cripe testified that defendant suffered from an antisocial personality disorder and impulse control disorder. Id. at 520. When asked by defense counsel how those mental disorders causally related to lack of intent, he responded: Defendant Ellis is in a situation where certain stressors arise. And given the weaknesses in his psychological makeup, the mind is overpowered basically by--there is a breakdown in the deliberation process, in forming judgments and decisions, and the person ends up acting from disarray and from confusion and emotional forces, rather than from a deliberate forming of intent . . . . Id. at 520-21. Dr. Cripe stated that he believed defendant did not act with intent partly because "it's not very common that human beings kill their mothers and little sisters. This is an extraordinary thing. . . . I mean people who plan and deliberately kill people, like hit men, don't do it with breadboards." Id. at 521. Defense expert Dr. Whitehill testified that Defendant Ellis suffered from a borderline personality disorder and intermittent explosive disorder. Id. at 520. He testified that those disorders would result in "emotional discontrol" to compromise defendant's perceptional process, his decision-making capacity and his ability to properly regulate his behavior. Id. The State filed a motion in limine to exclude or limit the testimony of Dr. Cripe and Dr. Whitehill. Id. at 502. The Pierce County Superior Court granted the State's motion and denied defendant's motion, relying upon the nine foundational criteria announced in State v. Edmon, a 1981 Court of Appeals case. In reversing the trial court's decision to exclude expert testimony on diminished capacity, this court concluded that the foundational criteria announced in State v. Edmon were not absolute and were not controlling. It instead concluded that admissibility of expert testimony concerning the diminished capacity defense should be determined under ER 401, ER 402 and ER 702. Id. at 521, 523.