Crime

Accused deputy killer feigned or exaggerated mental illness, experts testify

Accused deputy killer cries during ex-wife's testimony about their marriage ending

Christopher Keith Calmer, a Monroe County man charged with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputy Michael Norris, erupted into tears Thursday as his ex-wife, Samantha Peterson, testified about the end of their m
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Christopher Keith Calmer, a Monroe County man charged with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputy Michael Norris, erupted into tears Thursday as his ex-wife, Samantha Peterson, testified about the end of their m

Despite Christopher Keith Calmer’s assertions that he’s suffered delusions and hallucinations, an expert testified Monday that Calmer has feigned mental illness.

Calmer, 49, could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

He is charged with murder and a series of other charges stemming from his allegedly shooting deputies Michael Norris and Jeff Wilson Sept. 13, 2014, after the deputies had been dispatched to a report of a suicidal person at Calmer’s parent’s home. The deputies had gone to the home after Calmer’s uncle called 911 seeking help because Calmer was suicidal.

Norris died of his wounds. Wilson survived.

Jurors heard closing arguments in the case Monday night.

Earlier in the day, Dr. Matthew Norman, an Atlanta forensic psychiatrist, testified that he evaluated Calmer in May 2017 and asked about his feelings on the day of the shooting.

Calmer’s answers were vague and indicative of his trying to fake a mental illness, Norman said.

As part of his evaluation, Norman found a series of posts authored by Calmer on an online e-cigarette forum dated Sept. 13, 2014, the day of the shooting.

The writings were “logical, rational and without any evidence of psychosis,” Norman said.

He said he also listened to recordings of phone calls Calmer placed while held at the Crisp County jail awaiting trial in April. Jurors listened to the recordings Monday.

In the calls, Calmer and his mother discussed books, Bible translations, his need for eyeglasses and getting a suit cleaned for court.

Norman testified Calmer appeared to have organized thoughts and speech in the calls.

As part of his evaluation, Norman said he diagnosed Calmer with “malingering,” chronic pain, childhood sex abuse and a barbiturate-Fioricet use disorder.

He said in his opinion, Calmer doesn’t suffer from bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. A defense expert has testified Calmer suffered from bipolar and PTSD.

Darcy Shores, a forensic psychologist who works for the state, also testified that she saw evidence Calmer was faking or exaggerating answers to questions asked when she evaluated him.

Both Norman and Shores said Calmer described having memory loss from the day of the shooting, only remembering snapshots or flashes of time and not remembering portions of time.

Questioned by the defense, Shores said reports from people who saw Calmer on the day of the shooting indicate he may have been depressed and seen suicide as a possible solution.

Seth Stoughton, an expert in police tactics and procedure, also testified Monday, called to testify by Calmer’s attorneys.

Stoughton, a former Florida police officer who now works as a legal scholar, said although the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office’s policies for encountering mentally ill people are consistent with best practices and policies, Norris and Wilson’s actions were not.

They needed to take more time to gather information and assess the scene before approaching the front door of the house, he said.

Norris opened the door within a minute of the deputies arriving, Stoughton said.

Stoughton also criticized the amount of information passed to the deputies by dispatchers.

An Ohio psychiatrist also testified about what police officers learn in crisis intervention team training classes, courses that help officers best handle cases involving mentally ill people. He also talked about the differences between the brain of a healthy person and a mentally ill person.

Amy Leigh Womack: 478-744-4398, @awomackmacon

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