Forensic psychiatrist diagnoses Derrick Powell with seven disorders

Derrick Powell suffered from seven diagnosed mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress after being arrested for the murder of a Georgetown police officer, according to a forensic psychiatrist who testified at Powell’s penalty hearing. 

Dr. Saadia Alizai-Cowan of Maryland was called by the defense in the fourth day of the hearing in Sussex County Superior Court.  Attorneys for the 24-year-old Powell are trying to save him from facing the death penalty, following his conviction last week for the September 1st 2009 shooting death of officer Chad Spicer.

Dr. Alizai-Cowan told jururs she examined Powell for several hours less than two weeks after Spicer was killed, reviewed numerous records, and saw Powell again in August 2010.  Based on her findings, she diagnosed Powell with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar-2 disorder, panic disorder, cognitive disorder, anti-social personality disorder, post-traumatic stress, and cannabis disorder from the use of marijuana.

ADHD may have been present in Powell at a very young age, according to Dr. Alizai-Cowan.  Jurors again heard about school and social-service records which indicated a pattern of disruptive and disturbing behavior, and being prescribed medication for the disorder.  His father, Joseph Powell, said on the stand this week that he withheld the medication from his son unless absolutely necessary because he was concerned it could be a “gateway” drug.

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Mr. Powell and Derrick Powell’s mother, Tina Durham, told the court about their stormy relationship, their drug, and physical and verbal abuse of Derrick as he was growing up in Cumberland, Maryland. 

Dr. Alizai-Cowan said the disorder related to marijuana could have begun as early as age seven.  She said Derrick Powell gave some stories she did not believe, including that he smoked 30 to 40 “blunts” per day, that he made $20,000 a week selling drugs at one point, and that he was shot.  Powell also told the doctor that he believed he had a superior mind and that he could control traffic lights.

“I was made this way.  You shouldn’t try to fix the Lord’s work,” he said at one point during their conversations.

Her finding of PTSD was based on bruises and cuts found on Derrick Powell after his arrest for the police officer’s shooting, injuries she termed consistent with an “assault.”  Powell was taken into custody at a home in Georgetown after fleeing the scene of the shooting.  He was in a car with two other men and had been involved in a drug-related robbery attempt and shooting a short time earlier at the McDonald’s restaurant on Route 113. 

Under questioning from prosecutor Paula Ryan, Dr. Alizai-Cowan said it appeared Powell likely had many of these disorders on September 1st 2009, except for post-traumatic stress.  She said it was unlikely that the earlier shooting and the police pursuit triggered PTSD, but she also could not rule that out.

Powell discussed the night of the shooting and his arrest with Dr. Alizai-Cowan, saying they did not intend to kill an officer.  “If we did, two officers would be dead,” according to her records of the conversation..

Defense attorney Dean Johnson asked the doctor of Derrick Powell would do well if he spent the rest of his life in prison.  Dr. Alizai-Cowan believed he would, saying that Derrick Powell has already reconnected with family members, his sister and her kids.  He was getting to be “more like the Derrick they loved,” she said.  Also, Dr. Alizai-Cowan feels Powell would benefit from the atmosphere of consistency, rules, and definite consequences for breaking any rules in prison.

The penalty phase in the courtroom of Judge T. Henley Graves enters its second week on Monday. 

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