Expert Witness Undercuts Carmen dela Rosa's Insanity Defense in Court

By Julie Carey and Tim Persinko
|  Wednesday, Oct 5, 2011  |  Updated 8:36 PM EDT
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Prosecutors say anger and hate drove Carmela Dela Rosa to drop her 2-year-old granddaughter off a skywalk at Tysons Corner last November, while the defense maintains a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. (Court sketches by Bill Hennessy.)

Julie Carey, Sketches by Bill Hennessy

Prosecutors say anger and hate drove Carmela Dela Rosa to drop her 2-year-old granddaughter off a skywalk at Tysons Corner last November, while the defense maintains a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. (Court sketches by Bill Hennessy.)

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Expert Testimony in Toddler Murder Trial

The defense called a psychologist to testify as an expert in the trial of Carmela Dela Rosa, the woman accused of killing her granddaughter. (Sketches by Bill Hennessy.)

Tysons Toddler Murder Trial Continues

The defense continued testimony Tuesday in the case against Carmela Dela Rosa, the Fairfax woman accused of killing her granddaughter by tossing her over a sky walk at Tysons Corner. (Sketches by Bill Hennessy)
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Jurors in Fairfax County heard testimony Wednesday from the prosecution's mental health expert in the murder trial of Carmen dela Rosa.

The psychologist Stanton Samenow testified that in his opinion dela Rosa could tell the difference between right and wrong, undercutting her legal team's central defense.

When asked by the prosecutor whether he thought dela Rosa was a person out of touch with reality, Samenow replied, "Absolutely not."

"This is a woman who wanted things on her terms," Samenow said, "and when they did not go her way, she was angry."

Samenow interviewed dela Rosa for 10 hours over four days and also interviewed the woman's family.

He characterized dela Rosa' relationship with her family as "angry, uncompromising, unforgiving and difficult."

As evidence of these strained relations, Samenow told the court that dela Rosa once pulled a knife on her husband because she did not want him to leave for work. The psychologist also said dela Rosa felt lasting feelings of anger and betrayal towards her daughter because her teen pregnancy.  The grandmother felt jealous, in his opinion, of the attention that the 2-year-old received in the household.

The psychologist did think that dela Rosa had a borderline personality disorder. However, he was emphatic that she was not psychotic, contradicting her legal team's insanity defense.

According to Samenow, dela Rosa had entertained thoughts of killing her granddaughter earlier in the evening during the family's visit to Tysons Corner but initially decided to wait. He said she seemed to be thinking rationally when she threw the toddler off a raised walkway.

"I asked, 'Would you have thrown the baby off if a police officer was standing nearly?' and she said, 'Of course not,'" Samenow testified.

In cross examination, the defense drew out of Samenow that in the 40 years he has served as an expert witness, he has made only one insanity finding.

Accused of offering an evaluation partial to the prosecution, Samenow responded, "I object to that characterization that I'm a hired gun."

The juror heard closing arguments Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutor Ray Morrogh called the incident "an evil choice, and said that when things don't go dela Rosa's way, she isolates herself or gets rid of the person.

"This is not something she chose to do," defense attorney Dawn Butorac argued. "It's going on inside her head. She could not control it."

Jurors deliberated until about 6:30 p.m. They will resume deliberations in the morning.

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