Defense expert: William Merriweather suffers from schizophrenia - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Defense expert: William Merriweather suffers from schizophrenia

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BIRMINGHAM, AL - A forensic psychologist told a federal judge Tuesday that 2007 fatal bank robbery suspect William Merriweather has schizophrenia.

Merriweather is accused of gunning down four Bessemer bank tellers, two who died, in May 2007.

This week Judge David Proctor is hearing testimony to help him decide if Merriweather is competent to stand trial.

Tuesday's testimony began with a handful of prison and jail staff taking the stand.

Two Shelby County Jail employees testified that Merriweather was a model inmate who kept to himself and rarely received any visitors.

After lunch, the prosecution rested, and Merriweather's attorneys called their witness.

Dr. Mark Cunningham is a forensic psychologist who claims to have interview Merriweather for ten hours over three days.

He also spoke with numerous prison staff, along with Merriweather's friend and family.

Cunningham concluded that Merriweather has shown four of the five main symptoms of schizophrenia since his arrest in 2007.


They include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and acting socially isolated.


Cunningham stated that at one point, Merriweather did not bathe for four months and visited with other inmates once during a 37 week stretch.

However, he testified that the mentally disabled behavior began in the months leading up the bank robbery and, "There are features of the offense that are representative of someone suffering from schizophrenia." 


The hearing is expected to last the rest of the week.


Judge Proctor held a similar hearing three years ago and it took him eighteen months to decide that Merriweather would stand trial.

A trial was scheduled for January of this year, but when new information surfaced about Merriweather's mental state, the trial was postponed and this second competency hearing was scheduled.

  

Eva Hudson and Shelia Prevo were the two tellers who died during the bank robbery.


Tellers Anita Gordon and Latoya Freeman survived their gunshot wounds.


Merriweather faces the death penalty if convicted.

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