Experts: Man in stabbing case is OK to stand trial

Judge to decide in about two weeks whether Galbraith, 52, is competent

Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks judge heard testimony from two mental health experts who contend a man with a history of paranoid schizophrenia might be capable of aiding in his own defense.

Brian Galbraith, 52, is accused of fatally stabbing a woman outside a Fairbanks mental health facility in 2007.

Superior Court Judge Robert Downes dismissed the case in April 2008, finding that prosecutors did not provide evidence that Galbraith was competent to stand trial.

Galbraith voluntarily committed himself after the judge's decision, but soon asked to be released from the Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage, prompting prosecutors to refile charges.

Psychiatrist Aron Wolf evaluated Galbraith in May 2008, shortly before Galbraith was re-indicted. He testified during Monday's three-hour hearing that Galbraith was cooperative during the interview, displayed no sign of violent behavior and recognized the key figures in his court case.

Wolf, however, noted that Galbraith has for more than 20 years had a delusional fixation with "purple and green people" he claims to see around Fairbanks.

"He offered two explanations (for the murder)," Wolf said. "One is the cab driver he called might have done it or it might have been the purple and green people who harmed her."

A witness told authorities that Galbraith made threats shortly before stabbing Genine Holznagel-Leary in the back and slitting her throat. After the stabbing, he was overheard saying: "Death is life."

Despite his apparent delusions, Wolf said Galbraith could stand trial as long as he doesn't have hallucinations in the courtroom. He described Galbraith's condition as treatable, contradicting mental health experts who analyzed Galbraith in 2007 and said there was little hope he could ever be competent to stand trial.

Psychologist David Sterbeck did not evaluate Galbraith directly, but reviewed his mental health records and agreed with Wolf's assessment.

Despite the expert testimony, Michael Biderman, Galbraith's public defender, argued that Galbraith is incapable of helping in his defense. "I cannot send my investigator to look for green and purple people," he said. "They don't exist. He is not tethered to reality."

The judge said he will decide in about two weeks whether Galbraith is competent to stand trial.

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