Psychiatry Expert Witness Diagnosis of Schizophrenia Not Enough to Overcome Murder Verdict

Summary: Defendant is guilty of murder despite Psychiatry Expert Witness diagnosis of his schizophrenic condition.

Facts: MATTHEWVAISE V. STATE OF MARYLAND, Case No. 2205, Sept. 2018 involved the death of Stephen Vaise.

The victim was found shot dead in his home in Maryland in January 2015. Stephen’s son Matthew Vaise was charged with 1st Degree murder, and for use of a gun in a crime of violence.

The first case against Vaise resulted in a mistrial.  During his second 12 day trial, in the Baltimore Circuit Court, he was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder, and the use of a gun while committing a violent crime.  He was sentenced to 30 years for the murder, 20 years consecutive for the gun offense, without parole during the first five years.

The background of the case is as follows.

The victim had a brother named Thomas Vaise.  Approximately three weeks before the date of the murder, the victim brought his son Matthew to his brother’s home.  Stephen was unhappy, and asked Thomas to let Matthew stay at his house while Stephen worked.  Stephen told his brother that he was worried about his son because there were some people were looking for Matthew.  Thomas refused to let Matthew stay with him.  He was concerned about Matthew’s drinking.

On the date of the murder, a Baltimore Police Officer went to the home of Stephen Vaise to check on his well-being.  He had been absent from work for two days.  The house was locked, and nothing looked the home looked normal.

Later that day, Thomas returned home from work and was surprised that his front door was open.  He went in, and saw Matthew sitting a chair, drinking alcohol.  Thomas inquired to Matthew where his father was, and Matthew replied that he had not seen him for several days.  When questioned how he entered Thomas’ house, he said he came in through a cellar door.  Upon investigation, it was evident that Matthew had broken down that door to enter Thomas’ home.

Thomas called the police, and they arrived to investigate a possible burglary by Matthew.  Later, Matthew told the police officer that he had come to Thomas’ home looking for his father, who he claimed he could not contact.

The Baltimore police department sought evidence from Thomas’ home, while the police drove Matthew to his father’s residence in an effort to find Stephen.  On the way, Matthew claimed that he did not have a key to the home.  All the doors were locked, and there were no signs of a break in.  Upon retrieving a key, they entered the home, and found the victim lying in a pool of blood.  His body was cold, having been shot seven times.  Stephen had several had bags of groceries in his hands, and was surrounded by bullet casings, a knife, and a hammer.  There was also a note that included allegations that he was a crook who robs people of their identity, has mafia and RICO ties.  Along with a note was a business card for a private investigator.

Vaise was arrested, and interrogated for seven hours.  During the questioning, he stated that he had important clues, but he needed to be assured that he would be protected for releasing the information.  Vaise claimed that his info would lead to several hundreds of people to be arrested.  At the time of the murder Matthew said he had been conducting research on a person named Roland Miller, who Matthew claimed was a person who stole identities and took lives.  Later, Matthew claimed that Roland Miller was a public defender who kept calling him. During the interrogation, Vaise made claims that he has been raped, and that others were federal agents, stole credit cards, and were dealing drugs.  In one statement, Matthew claimed that a person killed his father to steal his credit background.

The jury later determined that the murder scene was set up, and it was done by Matthew Vaise.  He was found guilty of the murder, but it was still to be determined if he was sane enough to be criminal responsible.

Discussion: Matthew’s Forensic Psychiatry Expert Witness testified that Matthew was extremely paranoid, and feared for his life.  He also engaged in substance abuse, and  diagnosed him as a schizophrenic with multiple substance abuse disorders.

The State presented their own Expert Witness, who disputed the claim of schizophrenia.  Rather, the Psychiatry Expert Witness believed that he was a  manipulative psychopath and drug abuser who was clever enough to change his story when it benefitted him.

Conclusion: The court concluded that there was not abuse of discretion by the jury, and the defendant was found guilty.