Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Defense may claim stress disorder

Judge allows limited examination of Santistevan by prosecution?s doctor


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Alleged Bellevue shooter David L. Santistevan may have been suffering from the effects of acute stress disorder when he allegedly shot two Bellevue youths behind the Silver Dollar Saloon last March.

Santistevan, 46, is accused of shooting Marshall Hooten, 19, in the abdomen and Ty Peak, 15, in the buttock as they rode an ATV down a Bellevue alley. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges.

During a hearing on Monday, Oct. 18, dialogue between defense and prosecuting attorneys and 5th District Judge Robert Elgee indicated that defense attorneys may attempt to compile a defense based on a diagnosis that Santistevan suffered from acute stress disorder at the time of the shootings.

Santistevan?s trial is scheduled for Dec. 6.

According to Mental-Health-Matters.com, acute stress disorder is a variation of post-traumatic stress disorder that lasts for a minimum of two days and lasts a maximum of four weeks.

?The initial traumatic event must have involved actual or threatened death or serious injury or a threat to the physical integrity of self or another person, and the person must have felt fear, helplessness or horror,? according to the Web site.

Specifically at issue Monday was a motion by Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Justin Whatcott to obtain court permission to have a prosecution-hired doctor examine Santistevan.

?In order to make a proper diagnosis, our doctor has to be able to get into the same issues (the defense doctor) did,? Whatcott said. ?We?ve got no way to analyze this evidence because right now, we?ve got nothing but a report from (their doctor).?

But Elgee was adamant that such an examination might be an infringement on Santistevan?s Fifth Amendment rights.

?We are talking about, can you go back and ask him specific questions,? Elgee said. ?This is as close to stepping on the Fifth Amendment as you can get.?

Elgee granted prosecutors permission to have a doctor examine Santistevan, but stipulated that the doctor may not ask about the events of the day in question pending further consideration.

?Once I allow you in, then it?s too late, and if there?s an irreversible error, it?s too late,? Elgee said.

Citing the temporary nature of acute stress disorder, Whatcott said it is important that the prosecution?s doctor be able to ask questions about the events leading up to the alleged shooting.

?Acute stress disorder is something that is not ongoing,? he said. ?It is specific to a certain time. In order to determine if he was suffering from it, we must ask him about what happened during that very brief time when he was supposedly suffering from this syndrome.?

But Elgee was steadfast.

?The state?s experts can not ask Mr. Santistevan about the incident or any statement that might affirm or disaffirm any item of evidence,? he said. ?That?s not appropriate.?

For the time being, Elgee limited examination to: mental processes, memory, IQ, intelligence, personality, recall of events unrelated to the charge, medical history, childhood and ?very detailed and specific? questions about any previous events that are alleged to form part of the defense doctor?s opinion.

Twin Falls psychiatrist Dr. Richard Worst examined Santistevan in July. According to court minutes, Worst?s evaluation states that Santistevan lacks the ability to act with discretion when faced with a stressful situation.




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