WELLSBORO - A forensic psychiatrist on Thursday testified for the defense in the criminal homicide trial of Matthew D. Priset, 28, who is accused of stabbing Clinton Perry to death in Perry's Delmar Township home on Jan. 25, 2011.
Dr. Clarence Watson told the court that he evaluated Priset and came up with the same diagnosis as the prosecution - a combination of schizo-affective disorder with a bi-polar component - but he stopped short of saying Priset was insane at the time of the slaying.
Rather, he was suffering from audible and visual hallucinations of Perry threatening him and "trying to take over his soul," Watson said.
"On Jan. 25, he said he heard Perry saying he was going to continue harassing and torturing him and he refused to stop when Priset told him (psychically) to stop," Watson added.
Priset told Watson that he saw Perry sitting with a gun in his lap saying he was the Devil incarnate, and he wasn't going to stop, he said.
"He couldn't escape Mr. Perry's control, so he went over there to demand in person that he stop," Watson said, adding that Priset said he took the knife because, with the vision of Perry holding the gun, Priset believed Perry was going to kill him.
In cross examination, Deputy District Attorney John Cowley noted Watson based his opinion on information from Priest some 10 months after the fact.
Cowley asked him about the recorded interview at the state police barracks in Mansfield the day after the attack.
In that interview, Cowley said, Priset's demeanor was calm, responsive, interested and alert. He then asked Watson if that was relevant, to which Watson replied, "yes."
"He described the victim, who he said he had never had a conversation with in his life, as well-meaning ... not a shouter, not a hot head," Watson said.
Cowley also pointed out that after Priset wrote a letter to relatives from Torrance Hospital, where he was hospitalized for treatment with the aim of becoming competent to stand trial, that after he was rejected by a woman the night of the killing, he went home and got an 8-inch knife and took it to Perry's residence.
"Doesn't that show that he was going to be physically aggressive?" Cowley asked.
Watson said it was "more than just the behavior."
"It is important to know why. It could be he was carrying the knife because he was afraid he would be attacked and want to defend himself," he said.
"The autopsy would suggest that the only person attacked was the victim, stabbed five times," Cowley responded.
In closing statements, defense attorney Bill Hebe asked the court to find Priset guilty of involuntary manslaughter, without malice, because he believed he was acting in self-defense and needed to protect himself.
"The element of malice, that wickedness of heart, that absence of a sense of social duty must be proved by the Commonwealth," he said.
He also asked the court to reduce the charge of burglary to that of unlawful entry, because his client didn't go into the house to intentionally harm anyone.
District attorney George Wheeler asked the court to find Priset guilty of first degree murder because he did intentionally go to Perry's home to "savagely, brutally and viciously attack him."
Judge Robert E. Dalton Jr. adjourned court until 2 p.m. today, when a verdict is expected to be read.