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Alleged Killer on God’s ‘Mission’

May 13, 2000

HOUSTON (AP) _ A prosecutor in the trial of the Texas Railroad Killer questioned the credibility of a psychiatrist who contends the serial killer cannot be held responsible for the slayings because he is schizophrenic.

During cross-examination Friday afternoon, Prosecutor Lyn McLellan repeatedly accused Dr. Bruce Cohen of molding his opinion to fit Angel Maturino Resendiz’ insanity defense. Cohen, a forensic psychiatrist, said he had found only 10 percent of the several hundred defendants he has evaluated for sanity to be insane.

McLellan asked Cohen how he could be certain Maturino Resendiz was insane at the time of killings since Cohen did not interview him until nine months later. Cohen responded that a disease like paranoid schizophrenia develops over time, and that Maturino Resendiz showed symptoms well before the killings.

``You can have symptoms of diabetes at one time or another, but you still have diabetes,″ Cohen said.

Maturino Resendiz, 40, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the 1998 rape, bludgeoning and stabbing of a Houston-area physician, Dr. Claudia Benton. He has admitted to eight other killings _ five in Texas, two in Illinois and one in Kentucky _ over a two-year period starting in 1997.

Under Texas law, a person can only be found innocent by reason of insanity if the defense can prove the person was suffering from a mental disease and couldn’t discern right from wrong.

Cohen, who interviewed the defendant and reviewed dozens of his letters from jail, spent his second day on the stand as testimony in the capital murder trial was winding up its first week. He was to return to the stand for a third day Monday for further cross-examination.

Maturino Resendiz has no remorse and no awareness that he committed any horrendous crimes because he believes he is on a divine mission to eliminate evil, Cohen testified.

``That doesn’t appear a recognition that he wants to stop and can’t,″ he said. ``He’s saying, `I can’t stop even if I wanted to, because God’s force is on my side and God wants me to destroy evil and that’s why I can’t stop.‴

Friday’s proceedings also included a surprise comment from the defendant, who has previously spoken only through letters.

As McLellan cross-examined Cohen, Maturino Resendiz spoke out to get State District Judge Bill’s Harmon’s attention. Harmon excused the jury and allowed Maturino Resendiz to speak.

``I was just wondering, those letters to the media they got hold of are confidential. I don’t know how they got them. They did open all of my mail, but they are confidential,″ Maturino Resendiz said .

Harmon noted the remarks and called the jury back to the courtroom.

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