XEROX SHOOTINGS TRIAL
Uyesugi had self-
He was able to keep his
'distress and emotions at a
manageable level,' a
Experts fear fallout from caseBy Debra Barayuga
Thou shalt not kill.
That's what Byran Uyesugi said when asked if he knew it was wrong to shoot and kill seven Xerox Corp. co-workers, psychologist Harold Hall testified yesterday in the third week of trial in Hawaii's worst multiple slayings.
Hall was the first of the state's rebuttal witnesses; he was followed this morning by New York psychiatrist Michael Welner.
Testimony by Hall and Welner contradicted defense experts who contend Uyesugi lacked the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.
The defense argues Uyesugi should be found not guilty because of insanity or guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The prosecution contends the 40-year-old copy repairman knew right from wrong when he opened fire at the Xerox warehouse on Nimitz Highway last November.
Welner testified today he believed, "with a reasonable degree of psychiatric certainty," that Uyesugi was not so mentally distressed that he could not have controlled his actions.
Welner, who submitted an 80-page forensic psychiatric report on the case, said he based his opinion on interviews with Uyesugi, his family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, widows of some victims and others.
Whatever Uyesugi's distress level was on the day of his rampage, it "did not overbear his ability to maintain self-control," Welner said, and Uyesugi was able to keep his "distress and emotions at a manageable level" before and after the shootings.
Eight doctors who have testified so far, including three appointed by the court to examine Uyesugi, agree he suffered from a serious mental illness. But they disagree about whether he was legally insane.
Hall, who examined and conducted numerous tests on Uyesugi at the state's request, said yesterday that although Uyesugi suffered from a serious mental disorder, he does not meet the legal test of insanity.
Nor was he under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance when he opened fire on seven co-workers last November, Hall said.
Hall said Uyesugi exhibited no breakdown in self-control, the most important characteristic of a person who suffers from an extreme mental or emotional disturbance. Instead, he found a "formidable" amount of self-control and mental capacity to make choices before, during and after the killings last November.
Uyesugi told doctors he knew he had alternatives to violence: seek the help of an attorney or quit his job. He made statements to the effect that he had been working at Xerox for 15 years and did not want to start all over again.
"I'm not about to quit and let a bunch of a------ get the best of me," he told Hall.
He knew that killing his co-workers was legally and morally wrong, Hall said. Uyesugi qualified his comment by saying killing was acceptable in only three ways: war, self-defense or if "someone messed with his family."
The planning and preparation Uyesugi took to carry out his actions was "formidable" -- also a sign of predatory behavior, Hall said.
Hawaii's mental health experts fear a "Uyesugi Effect" -- that the murder case will worsen the stigma of mental illness and inhibit people from seeking help.
Experts in mental healthBy Lori Tighe
fear fallout from the
"The Uyesugi situation is very, very unusual. It's like an airplane crash or Hurricane Iniki. I'm afraid people are going to think, 'If I have a mental health problem, I'm going to be violent.' " said Greg Farstrup, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Hawaii. "In fact, this is rare."
The Byran Uyesugi trial began during Mental Health Awareness Month. Doctors have testified that Uyesugi, who killed seven of his Xerox co-workers, suffers from a delusional disorder, schizophrenia and paranoia.
The positive aspects of mental illness, Farstrup said, are that 80 percent of people who seek help get help, including 65 percent of schizophrenics.
But the problem is that only one out of three people with mental illness seeks help, primarily because of the stigma.
While the public follows the trial, the experts have tried to stress screening for mental illness and how services for the "mental health consumer" have improved.
"If the public is afraid of what they're seeing in the Uyesugi trial, they need to know mental illness is something they can get help for," said Dr. Fran Inouye, a psychologist at Queen's Hospital in counseling and clinical services.
"Uyesugi was percolating and he didn't want to get treatment. It sounds like he was in a lot of pain," Inouye said.
People in treatment are in fact less likely to act out, Inouye said.
Medications have improved and therapy solutions, which don't involve medication, have become successful options, she said.
Insurance companies are paying for more mental health treatment. The state Legislature two years ago doubled counseling visits covered by insurance from 12 to 24 annually, Farstrup said. The Legislature also granted money this year to research the cost effect of mental health parity -- equal insurance coverage for mental illness as physical illness.
"Mental health is a continuum like physical health. When those feelings become stronger than they can cope with, they need to get help," said Dr. Michael Wylie, psychologist with the state Health Department's Adult Mental Health.
When the public focuses on the most serious mental illness and heinous acts that occur, it perpetuates the stigma, Wylie said.
Although the public believes mental illness and violence are connected, doctors insist the two are at most coincidental and not related.
Uyesugi's case is so rare, doctors don't tend to associate it with the majority of mental illness cases, Wylie said. "I suspect the public will have a hard time grasping that," he said.
Delusional disorders account for 1 to 2 percent of U.S. hospital admissions, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - IV.
Delusional people are most in denial of having a mental illness because the disorder removes them from reality, Inouye said.
Common delusions suffered by people include feeling paranoid, like they are being followed or loved at a distance, Inouye said.
"I'm perplexed by the Uyesugi case," said schizophrenic specialist Dr. Tom Leland.
In his experience treating schizophrenics, Leland said he has found them to be "a gentle, rather kind folk grappling with a cruel set of circumstances."
Violence among people with delusional disorders is even more rare, he said.
"It's up to us the community to decide the moral standard of someone who can't control themselves versus won't control themselves," Leland said.
"Mental illness doesn't excuse the behavior."
The bottom line is the public needs to understand mental illness better and help the troubled get help, Leland said, rather than shun them because of the stigma.