Friday, December 26, 2014

Killer on death row seeking appeal

Robert Diamond of Bristol Borough murdered two men outside his former workplace in 2008. Psychologists differed Wednesday on whether he is mentally competent to participate in his appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Killer on death row seeking appeal

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Robert Diamond leaves Bucks County courtroom during a break in Wednesday's competency hearing. (Bill Reed/Staff)

The case of a Bristol Borough man on death row for gunning down two men outside his former workplace in 2008 is back in Bucks County Court to determine whether he is mentally competent for an appeal.

Robert Diamond, 36, has shown paranoid schizophrenic behavior since he has been in state prison following his guilty plea in 2009, forensic psychologist John O’Brien testified Wednesday on his behalf.  

“His responses on the surface are reasonable, but his answers to follow-up questions are disorganized and difficult to understand,” O’Brien said. “He is not able to engage in rational and reasonable conversations.”

The county’s forensic psychologist, Timothy Michals, said Diamond was “vague” and “defensive” in his interview, but he showed “sufficient mental capacity” to participate in his appeal.

Diamond stared straight ahead throughout the 4½-hour hearing without seeming to look at the two witnesses, the lawyers or Judge Rea B. Boylan, who had sentenced him to death. His mother, step-father, a sister and a few friends sat in the gallery. 

Diamond worked as a book sorter and forklift operator at the Simon & Schuster warehouse on Radcliffe Street for 5½ years before he was fired for absenteeism and not getting along with co-workers. Before the firing, he was disciplined for calling a young co-worker “boy.”

The other employees were jealous of him and harassed him because he was a harder worker, he told Michals.

Out of work and short on rent money, Diamond drove to the warehouse on Aug. 1, 2008, and fatally shot Angel Guadalupe, 46, of Falls Township. Guadalupe, a father of four, had just started the extra job  to help pay his mortgage.

Diamond then shot and killed Reginald Woodson, 52, of Willingboro, who had tried to intervene. Diamond shot Woodson in the back as he tried to run back into the warehouse.

At the sentencing, his lawyer argued that Diamond had suffered from mental illness most of his adult life, twice had been treated in mental-health facilities, and was too sick to be put to death.

But Boylan said the aggravating factors against Diamond -- the multiple victims and the danger of death he imposed on other workers that day -- outweighed his mental affliction, his lack of a serious prior record, and his guilty plea.

It was the first time that a Bucks County judge, acting independently of a jury, imposed a death sentence since Pennsylvania reinstated capital punishment in 1978.

At the hearing, Boylan asked for Diamond’s records from the state Department of Corrections and adjourned the proceeding without ruling.

Diamond’s case has been appealed directly to the state Supreme Court -- normal for inmates on death row -- for numerous issues, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Henry said.

About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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