Sanity Issue Raised by Bardo Lawyer : Murder case: Defense witness testifies that the man accused of killing actress Rebecca Schaeffer appeared ‘loony’ when he was arrested.
The man accused of stalking and shooting actress Rebecca Schaeffer appeared to be “loony” when he was taken into custody the day after the actress was slain, a television reporter testifying for the defense in the murder trial of Robert John Bardo said Friday.
Bardo, 21, seemed “at best disheveled and at worst drunk or stoned” as he was put into a Tucson police car, said James Wieder, who was working for a Tucson TV station at the time.
Wieder, who was the first major witness in the defense’s case, testified for about two hours Friday. He said Bardo’s manner and the look on his face reminded him of the suicide victim in the film “Full Metal Jacket,” with his head held low and his eyes staring upward. His testimony was part of Bardo’s lawyer’s attempt to show that his client was suffering from a mental condition at the time of the July 18, 1989, slaying.
The lawyer, Stephen Galindo, has said “psychiatric evidence” will be at the heart of his case, but he has refused to enter an insanity plea or any other as a protest to Bardo’s being brought back to Los Angeles without an extradition hearing. Superior Court Judge Dino Fulgoni entered a not-guilty plea on Bardo’s behalf.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark has said that Bardo was obsessed with Schaeffer, who was then a star of the television show “My Sister Sam,” but that he is not insane.
Bardo’s sister and brother, testifying earlier for the prosecution, acknowledged that Bardo, though a straight-A student, dropped out of high school while he was undergoing counseling and had spent time in a mental health facility.
In his testimony, Wieder said he and a cameraman came upon Bardo, Tucson Police Chief Peter Ronstadt and another officer while responding to a police scanner report that a man was running in freeway traffic.
For about three minutes, he said, he watched Bardo talking with the officers. Later, after he saw Bardo being transferred from a police station to a jail and then watched him on a video screen in court, Wieder said he concluded that “Robert was a very sick young man.”
Under cross-examination, however, he acknowledged that Bardo’s behavior and appearance could be explained by other factors, including that Bardo had had no sleep in the previous 48 hours.