March 4, 2011
After a 19-year-old Orange County, Calif., man killed two neighbors in 2005, the victim’s survivors sued the murderer’s psychiatrist, accusing him of causing the rampage by giving his client an unstable mix of antidepressants. A trial court judge said the case could proceed.
But on Thursday, Santa Ana, Calif.’s 4th District Court of Appeal ordered summary judgment for the doctor, saying that the patient had a pre-existing mental disorder that “necessitated” treatment.
“As early as 2001, [William] Freund had exhibited violent tendencies toward his parents,” Justice Raymond Ikola wrote. “And when he later became [the doctor's] patient, he already suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and the consequent frustration about his extreme social problems.
“[The doctor] did not create Freund’s painful mental disorder and his traumatizing social isolation,”
Justices David Sills and Richard Fybel concurred.
The ruling in Greenberg v. Superior Court (Smith), G040605 (pdf), is based on an event widely discussed in psychiatric and online mental-health circles. Freund, a lonely teenager whose affliction was a form of autism that impairs one’s social skills, had posted messages in 2005 at WrongPlanet.net — a Web site for the Asperger’s and autism communities — saying he wanted to kill himself and had bought a shotgun with which he intended to cause a lot of damage.
On Oct. 25, 2005 — four days after he got his weapon — Freund went to his only friend’s house, in Aliso Viejo, Calif., a town of about 40,000 people in Orange County, and killed his friend’s 22-year-old sister, Christina Smith, and her father, Vernon, 45. Wearing a cape and paint-ball mask, Freund went back to his house and took his own life.
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