CHARLES TOWN – The defense is expected to rest its case Wednesday in the trial of Ray Dwayne Cook, who is accused of first-degree murder for slaying his ex-fiancee Jenny Lou Perrine last summer.
Cook, 37, of Harpers Ferry, admits to killing Perrine, 36, of Martinsburg, on July 15, 2011 in the parking lot of the Southern States Coop, where the two had agreed to meet to so Cook could give Perrine her dog Sadie.
When the two met in the parking lot, Cook got out of his car and shot Perrine through the window of her car until the clip of his 9 mm pistol was empty, according to testimony at the trial. He then returned to his SUV, loaded a second clip into the pistol and shot her again.
Cook then called 9-1-1 and waited for police to arrive.
Cook is not seeking to prove that he is not guilty of killing Perrine, rather he is asserting a “diminished capacity” defense.
Kevin Mills and Shawn McDermott, Cook’s defense team, argue that Cook cannot be found guilty of first-degree murder because he had “snapped” and was in a “trance-like state.”
In this mental state, they say, he was unable to premeditate the killing – the requirement for a guilty verdict on a first-degree murder charge. They also say his mental state prevented him from forming malice – the requirement for second-degree murder.
If the defense succeeds in proving both claims, Cook could potentially be found guilty of only voluntary manslaughter. He is not expected to take the stand in his defense during the hearing.
The defense is relying heavily on three expert witnesses to testify to Cook’s impaired state.
Dr. Bernard Lewis, a clinical and forensic psychologist from Winchester, Va., testified that Cook suffered from a kind of bipolar disorder. That, together with the stresses of his on-again off-again relationship with Perrine, side-effects of the several psychotropic drugs he had been prescribed, and insomnia formed an “imperfect storm” of factors that left him in a severely altered, psychotic state, where he could not control his thoughts, emotions or actions, Lewis argued.
Rodney Richmond, an expert in pharmacology specializing in adverse drug reactions, gave a rundown of the drugs Cook had been prescribed to deal with mental health issues, including Seroquel, an atypical antipsychotic drug; Ativan, an anti-anxiety drug; and Buspar, another anti-anxiety drug.
While each of the medications is meant to be calming, Richmond testified, some patients can experience “paradoxical side effects.” He testified that there have been over 700 reports of Seroquel inducing aggression in patients since it was first put on the market.
The defense also called a psychiatrist, who testified about the dramatic ways in which the biochemical brain imbalance that causes bipolar disorder can manifest itself in risky or dangerous actions.
The prosecution cross-examined all three witnesses, challenging them to explain how, if Cook was unable to premeditate the murder, he was able to send his ex-wife a text message minutes before the murder asking her to tell their children that he loved them every day because he was “going to kill Jen” and so he would be “going away for a while.”
They also pointed out that two witnesses testified that Cook came to Perrine’s place of work hours before the shooting and carried out a “mock killing,” holding his hand in the shape of a pistol and pretending to shoot into the window of her car.
Lead prosecutor Hassan Rasheed argued that Cook had shown his malice plainly when he explained his reason for killing Perrine to the 9-1-1 operator who had answered his phone call.
“She just kept (expletive) with me. With my whole life, my kids, everything,” Cook said in the recording.
The prosecution also plans to call two psychological experts of its own in the coming week as rebuttal witnesses.