Suspect cannot remember Michael Jackson or 9/11

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Windhoek

A clinical psychologist who assessed American murder suspect, Marcus Thomas, informed Judge Christi Liebenberg yesterday that he suffers from short- and long-term memory impairment.

According to Lydia Nangolo, who observed Thomas from April 14 to 21 this year, the suspect could not even recall who Michael Jackson was, nor could he remember the events of September 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers in New York were attacked.

“When I asked him if he knows who Michael Jackson was, he replied: ‘Oh do you know him, where is he now?” She said Thomas could apparently also not remember what happened on 9/11, saying only that it had something to do with airplanes.

According to Nangolo he struggled with concentration and could not give a description of the events that led to his injury.

She agreed with the assessment of Dr. Frederika Mthoko that Thomas suffers from a neuro-cognitive disorder caused by the fall he suffered during his failed bid to escape from custody in November 2014.

Thomas and fellow American, Kevan Townsend, are accused of killing Andre Heckmair with a single gunshot to the back of his head on January 7, 2011 at Gusinde Street in Windhoek and robbing him of his cellphone and wallet containing at least 100 Swiss Franc.

They had allegedly imported two 9mm pistol barrels without a permit and allegedly possessed a 7.65mm pistol and ammunition without a license.

It is further alleged that the accused removed a notebook from police custody after the police seized it as an exhibit and/or burned, destroyed or otherwise disposed of some of the pages in the book.

Nangolo testified on Monday that Thomas took a long time to answer questions and sometimes he appeared to go blank; where after he seemed not to be aware of his surroundings.

On a question from State Advocate Antonia Verhoef as to whether or not Thomas could have faked his mental impairment, Nangolo said that his behavior was “consistent” throughout the assessment.

According to the psychologist, he is not able to follow court proceedings and is currently not fit to stand trial.
Occupational therapist, Nina Balzer, who also assessed Thomas, was in agreement with Nangolo. She said he had difficulty following basic instructions and struggled to perform the most mundane tasks.

Despite informing her that he is good at mathematics, he could not perform basic tasks, such as putting numbers in the correct order.

She also said that Thomas could not provide any details of the crime he is alleged to have committed.

She agreed with Nangolo that Thomas is unfit to stand trial and added that his condition could deteriorate over time, or alternatively he could recover his full mental faculties, but she could not predict which outcome was more likely.

Verhoef tried her level best to shake the testimonies of the witnesses, but they remained steadfast in their professional opinions, with Balzer saying that Thomas did not give the impression that he was faking his mental state.

Thomas underwent the observation of his mental state following a request by his former lawyer, Werner van Rensburg, after Thomas had hung upside-down for more than two hours from a barbed wire fence outside the Windhoek Correctional facility following a botched escape attempt.

Thomas is now represented by Monty Karuaihe and fellow-accused, Townsend by Josua Kaumbi. The trial continues on Thursday with further submissions expected by both counsels.

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