Barry Fields, a clinical psychologist whose evaluation was for the benefit of Children’s Court Judge John J. Romero, said Nehemiah “has the capacity to deal with what he needs to. Everything points to his being able to make the necessary changes” to be able to return to the community.
After hearing again from a California-based prosecution psychiatrist who believes Nehemiah has a personality disorder that would be difficult to treat, Romero may decide today on the 18-year-old’s future.
Prosecutors want him sentenced as an adult, with potentially a great deal of time, while the defense has argued that he is doing well in treatment and should be sentenced as a juvenile. A CYFD psychiatrist who manages evaluations in its system, Dr. George Davis, said he’d met with Nehemiah last December and believed the department could meet his needs.
“From what I’ve read, he’s very much like our other patients,” he said. Although the events that propel juvenile murderers into the criminal justice system are severe, the murder is “usually isolated,” and those youths typically don’t have a long criminal history. Planning for their reintegration into society is particularly important, he said, to get them reacquainted with their families and set them up for school and continued treatment.
Fields said there are things Nehemiah still must grapple with, including his admiration for a father who was paranoid, violent and wildly inconsistent with praise and criticism of his oldest child.
In cross-examination, Fields did not back down from his opinion that Nehemiah’s father, Greg, a reformed gang member who had undergone a religious conversion and worked in a church prison ministry, likely suffered from paranoid delusions and viewed himself as “king of the castle.”
Nehemiah was 15 when he took guns his father had trained him to use so he could protect the family and turned them on his sleeping mother and younger brother, then his two sisters, and finally hours later on his father.
“This was not a normal household,” Fields said. “The kinds of restrictions on activities those kids went through, that degree of control, reaches the level of dysfunction – disturbed, bizarre.” Fields recalled that a neighbor described offering to take Nehemiah to a skate park, only to be informed by Greg Griego that Nehemiah was not permitted to go anywhere without him.
Assistant District Attorney Michelle Pato suggested that there was another view of Greg Griego, one that was smiling and happy-go-lucky.
If there was a report or interview describing that, Fields said, “I didn’t see it. He was a law-abiding citizen, and encouraged Nehemiah’s talents in drumming. That doesn’t negate other elements.”
Pato suggested through her questioning that Greg Griego’s protectiveness might have been legitimate.
“I am not going to buy that Mr. Griego was just a normal protective father … I’ll stick with what I said before – he looks like a control freak, to use a technical term,” Fields responded.