Defense suggests post-traumatic stress
Defense suggests post-traumatic stress BY BRETT HAMBRIGHT, Staff Writer
Did post-traumatic stress disorder prevent Matthew Scott Becker from recalling how he fatally shot his pregnant girlfriend?
Becker's defense attorney suggested it did Wednesday, the third day of Becker's homicide trial for the death of Allison Walsh and her unborn daughter.
Jurors on Tuesday heard an audio recording of statements Becker made to police. He said he could not remember exactly what happened just before the gun fired inside his Mastersonville home on Aug. 12, 2011.
Becker, 23, has maintained that the shooting was accidental, but he has made different statements to police regarding how the gun fired.
Instead of providing exact details, Becker told troopers his mind was a "blur" and he "blacked out" when the shot was fired.
Defense attorney Dennis Charles suggested those lapses in memory are due to the trauma Becker sustained while watching Walsh die.
Is it possible Becker didn't remember "because he had just witnessed his girlfriend get shot in the head?" Charles asked one trooper who interviewed Becker.
"Well, he shot her," Trooper Chad Roberts replied. "If you shoot somebody, you're a witness to it."
Charles pressed the trooper further on his expertise concerning a traumatic event's effect on one's memory.
"I don't have psychological training in that area, no," Roberts replied.
Police and prosecutors contend that Becker was abusive to Walsh, 21, and intentionally shot her. They are seeking a first-degree murder conviction and the death penalty.
Charles said in an opening statement that the shooting was, at most, involuntary manslaughter.
Also Wednesday, a doctor discussed the autopsy he performed on Walsh and her daughter, who lived seven minutes after an emergency Caesarean section.
Dr. Wayne Ross said the shooter was to Walsh's left, at least 3!-W feet away. She was shot while she was lying on a bed.
The bullet entered her brain at an upward angle, Ross said, indicating the gun was lower than she was when it fired.
The single 22-caliber round caused massive damage, Ross said.
"It destroyed the brain," Ross said. "It would be instantly fatal."
The jurors all paid close attention and jotted notes during Ross' testimony. Several of Walsh's relatives, who had attended the entire trial, sat outside during Ross' turn on the stand.
When questioned by Assistant District Attorney Mark Fetterman, Ross couldn't provide an exact distance the bullet traveled before striking Walsh.
"I can't be more specific than that," he said, noting the shooter wasn't closer than 3!-W feet.
Later Wednesday afternoon, a state police trooper and trained expert in firearms and gun safety took the stand.
Trooper Todd Neumyer explained there are seven safety features on the pistol used in the shooting that are designed to prevent accidents.
On cross-examination, Neumyer conceded the features could be disregarded, while noting that the mechanical features are secondary to common sense.
Charles has suggested that Becker wasn't knowledgeable about guns even though he collected them.
Neumyer said a golden rule is to never load a gun unless you are prepared to use it.
"That has been applied throughout my entire life and I've yet to have an accident, even though I handle firearms every single day," he said.
Fetterman followed up by asking, "So what is a gun's best safety feature?"
"Your brain," Neumyer replied.
nAttorney argues that explanations of his client, who shot his pregnant girlfriend, differ because he watched her die.