The new defense attorney for Richard Baumhammers called witnesses Monday to challenge the testimony of Dr. Michael Welner, who testified at a 2001 trial that Baumhammers was a hateful white supremacist driven by narcissistic and anti-social personality disorders. Welner was called to rebut defense claims that Baumhammers was a paranoid schizophrenic prompted by delusions that he was being followed, shot with lasers and otherwise persecuted by nameless, faceless entities.
The Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing is scheduled to last through Tuesday, when Welner will be asked about his trial testimony.
Baumhammers' new attorney, Caroline Roberto, wants Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning to grant Baumhammers a new trial because of Welner's "extremely pejorative" testimony before a jury convicted Baumhammers and imposed five death penalties for the April 28, 2000, shootings. The judge later added 112 years in prison for 20 lesser counts, including ethnic intimidation.
The judge showed little patience with Roberto's claims, criticizing "this interminable appellate process ... which, for us, involves the endless search for the perfect trial."
Two psychiatrists who testified for Roberto, Drs. Phillip Resnick, of Cleveland, and Richard Dudley Jr., of New York, took issue with Welner's conclusions and methods of examining Baumhammers, who's 46.
Resnick testified that many of the behaviors and other symptoms Welner used to diagnose Baumhammers, including what prosecutors called a lack of remorse and a smirk he wore when arrested, were in many cases more likely to have been caused by schizophrenia, a brain disorder Resnick called "the most serious disease in psychiatry."
Before the killings, Baumhammers, then 37, was unable to hold a job and relied entirely on his parents for financial support. They bought him cars and paid his expenses and for trips to Europe and even for escort services because he couldn't maintain dating relationships or friendships.
That conduct would be better explained by schizophrenia than narcissistic personality disorder, Resnick testified.
He later explained that schizophrenia "permeates all aspects of (one's) life" whereas delusions prompted by less serious personality disorders tend to be confined to certain aspects of the life of a person, who may behave quite normally in other respects.
Dudley testified that Welner didn't delve deeply enough into various delusions held by Baumhammers during more than 10 hours of interviews conducted for Welner's expert rebuttal testimony.
Dudley noted that Welner used Baumhammers' comments about Freaknik, a spring break festival held by students from historically black colleges in Atlanta, as evidence of his racial views. Welner noted in his report that Baumhammers avoided the event when he visited Atlanta. But Dudley said recordings of the interviews show Baumhammers said his fear of crowds, not the race of the participants, motivated his decision.
On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Ronald Wabby, got Dudley to acknowledge that he didn't review all the evidence Welner had at his disposal nor did he question Welner's finding that Baumhammers' parents, who are from Latvia, were "indulgent enablers." During his questions, Wabby argued that Baumhammers' outspoken views, frequent visits to white supremacist websites and the "facts of the murders themselves" supported Welner's conclusions.
Wabby noted Baumhammers killed his Jewish next-door neighbor in the upscale Pittsburgh suburb of Mount Lebanon before shooting at a synagogue and spray-painting a swastika and the word "Jew" on it.
Baumhammers then drove through several other suburbs, stopping to shoot two Indian men at an Indian grocery. One of the men died there, and the other was left a quadriplegic before he died of complications of pneumonia related to his condition in 2007.
Baumhammers then shot at another synagogue before fatally shooting a Chinese man and a Vietnamese man at a Chinese restaurant and, finally, stopped at a karate school, where he fatally shot a black man.
Still, Dudley insisted that Welner failed to "fully explore" Baumhammers' various delusions, making it "impossible to support" Welner's subsequent findings and testimony.
Attorneys who handled Baumhammers' trial and an earlier appeal also were expected to testify.
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