The defense has rested its case in the Mark Becker murder trial in Butler County. On Monday, three mental health experts disagreed on whether Becker was legally insane at the time he killed Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas last June. Dan Rogers, a psychologist from Fort Dodge, testified for the defense.
“He suffers from schizophrenia, paranoid-type,” Rogers said. “He also suffers from a history of amphetamine abuse and alcohol abuse, secondary to the schizophrenia. That’s important because I determined it wasn’t the cause of the symptoms, it was the result of the symptoms.” A psychiatrist hired by the defense said Becker believed Thomas was Satan, had raped him and brainwashed him through telepathic messages.
Doctor Phillip Resnick said Becker thought by killing the “devil,” he was doing something good. “He was unable to distinguish between right and wrong with respect to shooting coach Thomas,” Resnick said. “That would qualify for a valid insanity defense in my opinion.” Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown on cross examination aggressively challenged Resnick and Rogers by reviewing all the rational moves Becker made the day leading up to Thomas’ shooting, including his choice to steal a gun from his parent’s home and doing some target practice.
A psychiatrist hired by prosecutors agreed Becker was schizophrenic, but said having delusions or believing someone is Satan doesn’t make a person insane. Doctor Michael Spodak said Becker was capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong.
“He takes a weapon, hides it and leaves it in the car until he makes sure coach Thomas is in the weight room, he goes back to the car and brings (the weapon) in,” Spodak said.
“He (shoots Thomas) in such a way that he’s up close so he doesn’t shoot anybody else, which he also understands would be wrong…and as soon as he sees a police officer, he surrenders. These are all things that indicate to me that he had the sufficient mental capacity and reasoning to distinguish that this was the legally wrong act to do.” The 24-year-old Becker pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The prosecution is expected to call another rebuttal witness today. Closing arguments are set for Wednesday.
By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids