PRESTONSBURG — A psychologist called to testify in the trial of Berry Hall Tuesday told jurors he believes the defendant’s actions were influenced by what he diagnosed as major depressive disorder.
Dr. James Walker, a forensic neuro-psychologist from Nashville, who interviewed the defendant in December 2009, told jurors that Hall’s IQ had been measured in the 70s.
“Mr. Hall struggles with thinking and reasoning ability,” said Walker. “If you took 100 people, 96 percent of them would score higher than Berry Hall.” Walker said he used the Wexler Adult Intelligence test to measure Hall’s IQ.
Walker also testified that he does not believe the defendant was ever lying to him, in an attempt to make himself appear more crazy, be being what he termed, malingering. Malingering is medical term which means to fabricate or exaggerate the symptoms of mental or physical disorders for a variety of motives, which include seeking lighter criminal punishment.
Based on his own findings, reports by the Kentucky Correctional Psychotherapy Center (KCPC), and the notes of Dr. Charles Hironymous, Walker told the jurors he believes Hall suffered from major depressive disorder.
When asked by defense attorney Jim Gibson if he believed the symptoms of that depression contributed to the shooting of the Tacketts, Walker said, “In my mind, I think it’s very clear that Mr. Hall was impaired in those areas, that he … he … that because of his mental illness, he was not about to think and function as a normal human being would.”
According to Dr. Walker, Hall also complained of auditory and visual hallucinations, and displays “magical thinking.”
In the prosecution’s cross-examination, Commonwealth’s Attorney Arnold Brent Turner asked Walker if he could say with any certainty what happened on March 20, 2008.
“I don’t claim perfect knowledge,” said Dr. Walker,” but I do think I have an understanding of what happened that day.”
Hall testified on Monday it was the prescription antidepressant medicine he was on that caused him to shoot Lisa and Alan Tackett. On Tuesday, Turner asked Dr. Walker if he thought Hall was capable of hurting anyone now.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Walker.
“So he is crazy, but he’s what, rationally crazy?”
“I think there was some element of choice in his actions,” answered Walker, though he added that he believed that choice was impaired by mental illness.
Turner asked Walker if the acts of Berry Hall were the random acts of a crazy person.
Dr. Walker responded by saying, “I’ve never said that this event was caused by someone who was crazy or hallucinating and uhm, some random event. I don’t think it was random. I think it was, to some degree, instigated by Mr. Hall, that he made a choice and I believe that in fact, uhm, at the time of the shooting, I don’t know that he was psychotic, or as you use the word, crazy.”
Despite all the testimony given stating that Hall suffers from depression, Walker testified that Hall is currently not taking any medication.
“Hall has many symptoms of depression as we sit here today, yes. I don’t believe that he is psychotic today. I don’t think that he is seeing things or hearing things, or having strange thoughts right now. But I do think he does have serious symptoms of depression as we sit here today,” said Walker.
“He only has those things when he wants to shoot people is what you’re saying?” queried Turner.
“Not at all,” Walker responded.
Testimony in the trial of Berry Hall continued beyond press time Tuesday afternoon. Times staff will continue to monitor and report on the case again as it resumes on Wednesday.