Prosecution Rests in Md. Priest Trial

A man who shot a former priest made wild claims to doctors, meaning he either had severe psychotic symptoms or was trying to fake them, a psychiatrist testified Tuesday.

The prosecution rested its case Tuesday in the trial of former priest Maurice Blackwell (search), 58, and the defense phase got under way. Blackwell, who was shot and wounded by accuser Dontee Stokes (search) three years ago, is charged with four counts of child sex abuse.

Defense witness Dr. Neil Blumberg cited Stokes' statements in medical records that he was possessed by evil spirits, felt as though he was Jesus Christ (search) and had been abducted by aliens as a child.

"He reported seeing dead people, hearing their voices," Blumberg testified.

The medical records strongly suggested that Stokes, 29, has sometimes been unable to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, if he was talking honestly to doctors, Blumberg said.

Blackwell, who did not testify, faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted. Stokes served home detention for attacking Blackwell.

Blumberg didn't examine Stokes directly because the court denied a defense request for a psychological evaluation. But the defense psychiatrist gave an opinion based on several evaluations by other doctors.

Dr. Stephen Siebert, a psychiatrist who interviewed Stokes in 1993 and in 2002 just after his arrest, testified that Stokes did not appear traumatized in their first meeting.

But during the 2002 interview, Stokes described concerns about his sexual orientation and a belief that people became homosexuals after being sexually abused. Stokes also said he had seen demons and occasionally woke up at night unable to move.

"'It felt like demons were trying to take me to hell,'" the doctor quoted Stokes as saying.

The defense has challenged Stokes' credibility repeatedly. When he testified last week, defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell tried to portray the Baltimore barber and former altar boy as a disturbed young man.

Stokes maintains the abuse was real and happened on numerous occasions between 1989 and 1992.

Ravenell opened the defense portion of the case by bringing several witnesses to the stand who ran a youth group that Stokes belonged to at St. Edward's Church in West Baltimore, where the abuse allegedly happened.

Stokes had testified that Blackwell summoned him from choir practice to a private meeting in order to abuse him. But the group's leaders, Warren Jennifer and Edith Thomas, testified they never saw Blackwell invite any member to a private meeting. They also testified that police never interviewed them.

Jurors also heard from Shirley Page, a cousin of Blackwell who organized the choir. Stokes testified last week that he believed Page's son committed suicide because he had been abused by Blackwell. Under questioning from defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell, Page said her son killed himself because he had contracted AIDS from a girlfriend.

On Monday, a Baltimore police detective who first investigated Stokes' allegations in 1993 testified he found Stokes credible. Prosecutors declined to bring charges at that time.

The prosecutor who decided not to bring charges against Blackwell in 1993 said the statute of limitations had expired on possible misdemeanors.

A felony charge was also considered because Blackwell may have legally had temporary care of Stokes, who spent a lot of time in a church youth group. But prosecutors decided the legal relationship between the two was unclear.

Nearly a decade later, another detective re-examined Stokes' claims after Stokes shot and wounded the former priest.

Blackwell was stripped of his church authority after acknowledging having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy in the early 1970s. The Vatican defrocked him in October.