‘Sins of Father’ Basis of Youth’s Robbery Defense

Times Staff Writer

A Tarzana youth charged with robbing two San Fernando Valley banks may suffer from a hereditary “mood disorder” that could link his behavior with that of his father, a convicted bank robber, a child psychiatrist told a custody hearing for the boy Monday.

Testifying in support of releasing 16-year-old Michael Morrison to a private psychiatric hospital, psychiatrist Noel Lustig said there is a “70% probability” that the boy has a hereditary mental illness that could be treated with anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy.

Lustig, who examined Morrison on May 22, the day before Morrison and a 16-year-old acquaintance allegedly robbed an Encino Savings and Loan office, testified in Sylmar Juvenile Court that Morrison “has demonstrated the same periodic cycling of moods over a period of years that his father . . . apparently did.”

Lustig testified that Morrison has suffered from migraine headaches and “periods of grandiose acting out alternated with periods of passivity,” similar to what his father, Allan Morrison, reportedly exhibited during his youth.


The senior Morrison, who is now 50, pleaded guilty to bank robbery in 1963 and served time in federal prison.

May Have Imitated Father

The psychiatrist said the younger Morrison may have been “seeking role identification” by imitating his father’s criminal behavior “during an acting out phase” of his mood disorder.

In the Encino robbery, the Morrison youth and 16-year-old Mark Berman allegedly donned simulated police uniforms to rob two tellers of more than $4,000. Morrison also has been charged with the Jan. 3 robbery of $1,200 from Barclays Bank in Tarzana.


In addition, the Morrison boy and Berman have been charged with stealing three cars at gunpoint between May 16 and May 29. The boys, both Taft High School students, were arrested May 30 following a high-speed car chase through Woodland Hills.

Morrison, who has been under intermittent psychiatric care since he was 12 and spent three months in a Utah reform school last year, is in custody at Sylmar Juvenile Detention Center.

Both Lustig and psychiatrist Robert E. Litman, who examined Morrison at the juvenile center on Saturday, said they believe the boy may be suicidal.

Attorneys for Morrison have asked Juvenile Court Judge Burton S. Katz to order the boy held at Coldwater Canyon Hospital in North Hollywood, which has an in-patient psychiatric treatment program for adolescents.


Deputy Dist. Atty. Jerry J. Bowes opposed the transfer.

“What we’re saying here is, if an individual’s family has the money, you can go out and buy a private jail, something a little bit better than the other kids in the hall can get,” Bowes said.

Katz ordered the custody hearing continued until this afternoon.