LEWISTON — A state psychologist who recently examined a suspect in the third in a string of major arsons in downtown Lewiston testified Thursday that the man understands many of the facts in the case against him but his mental ability to make reasoned decisions is “impaired.”
Ann LeBlanc, director of State Forensic Services, testified along with two other psychologists at a hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court to determine whether Bryan Wood is competent to stand trial on two counts of arson in the fire on May 6 that destroyed the vacant buildings at 114 and 118 Bartlett St.
Wood, 23, has been found incompetent in previous criminal cases against him, including a case in 2008 in which he was accused of setting fire to a truck in Portland.
The prosecutor in the latest case, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis, is seeking to have Wood deemed competent to be tried on the arson charges along with a co-defendant, Brian Morin.
“There are many terms he remembers and understands related to the legal field,” said LeBlanc, the psychologist who examined Wood most recently. “His reasoning, his ability to use those facts, was impaired.”
LeBlanc said Wood was diagnosed when he was 4 with “mild retardation” and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
As an adult, Wood was found to have an IQ of 55, compared to the average score of 100, meaning only “one-tenth of the population would score below” him, LeBlanc testified.
While Wood’s attorney, Steven Carey, is seeking to have him found incompetent again, Wood tried to convince LeBlanc that he is competent.
“He said repeatedly that he wants to tell the judge his side of the story,” LeBlanc said. “He wanted to be found capable of telling his story to the judge. Occasionally, he used the word ‘competent.’”
LeBlanc said she examined Wood twice leading up to Thursday’s hearing, on July 9 and then Wednesday, and found that he isn’t delusional and understands why he was arrested.
“He is very good at saying words related to his circumstances, but his understanding of the words is limited,” she said.
Kerry Drach, another psychologist who testified, said he examined Wood in 2012 in response to a court order in two other cases.
“Hospitalization with medication will not improve his cognitive ability,” Drach said he found.
Justice MaryGay Kennedy made no immediate ruling on Wood’s competence after hearing testimony by psychologists, law enforcement officers and many of Wood’s acquaintances.
An investigator for the state Fire Marshal’s Office, Daniel Young, testified that he had to end a formal interview with Wood on May 10 after his arrest because Wood had insisted on having an attorney.
The prosecutor played a video recording of Young’s interview of Wood, in which Wood repeatedly denied setting the fire.
“I really didn’t do it. I’ll take a lie detector test right now,” Wood said in the recording. “I didn’t do nothing. I really didn’t.”
Young said in a report filed in court records that Morin admitted that he and Wood agreed to set the fires because they were “sick and tired of all these abandoned buildings” in Lewiston.
Morin, a 30-year-old homeless man, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Two 13-year-old boys are charged with setting the two other major fires in downtown Lewiston, on April 29 and May 3. Those fires destroyed seven buildings and displaced nearly 200 people. The arsons aren’t believed to be connected.
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