A Center Moriches man's lengthy history of serious mental illness had nothing to do with why he sneaked up on his mother and stabbed her to death as she was eating her lunch, a forensic psychiatrist testifying for the prosecution Thursday told a jury in Riverhead.
On that point, Dr. Jeremy Colley of Manhattan differed with his defense counterpart, Dr. Alexander Bardey. The two forensic psychiatrists were the final witnesses in the trial of Christopher Storm Harrison, 27, who is charged with second-degree murder in the Nov. 17, 2017, killing of his mother, Joyce Skarka. The issue in the trial before Suffolk County Court Judge Timothy Mazzei is whether Harrison is not responsible for his actions because of insanity.
Bardey said Harrison wasn't responsible because he was in the throes of a delusion-driven "psychotic rage," brought about by his bipolar disorder with psychotic aspects.
Colley, during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Frank Schroeder, said he saw no evidence for that theory.
"He knew what he did was wrong when he did it," Colley testified, and he knew he could go to prison for it.
Colley agreed with Bardey that Harrison saw Skarka as his enemy and felt enslaved by her, but he said that was no delusion. Instead, Colley said, that feeling was the result of Harrison realizing he was jobless, mentally ill, had no romantic prospects and was completely dependent on his mother -- and he resented it.
"That's just who Storm Harrison is when he's not sick," said Colley, who had earlier described him as a self-absorbed person who wanted a comfortable lifestyle without having to work for it.
Harrison spent much of the day listening to testimony with his head on the defense table, occasionally rubbing his scalp with his hands.
Colley, like Bardey, commented on a conversation Harrison had with his mother the night before about wanting to buy President Donald Trump a beer. Bardey had testified that was evidence of delusional thinking.
Colley, however, said Harrison wanted "to start a political campaign to have a beer with President Trump" in the hopes that Trump would "chill out."
But Harrison dropped the idea when his mother told him it was a bad idea, Colley said. If it had been a delusional motivation, he would have remained fixated on it, Colley said.
During cross-examination by defense attorney Robert Del Col of Smithtown, Colley said that even though Harrison had been off his anti-psychotic medication for a week, he saw no sign in the events before, during and after the killing that Harrison was in the grip of a mental illness. But he conceded that it's not always obvious from the outside if someone is in a psychotic state.
"In your view, his documented psychiatric illnes had nothing to do with this?" Del Col asked.
"That is correct," Colley replied.
"Then what was his motive for killing his mother?" Del Col asked.
"What he told me was that he killed his mother to go to prison, so he could be free of her," Colley said.
Del Col asked if that was an example of "normal, balanced thinking."
Colley said it wasn't delusional, and wasn't the product of a mental disease.
Colley agreed that Harrison suffered from delusions and had heard voices in the past, but said there was no sign that any of that played a role in the killing of Skarka.