"He has paranoid schizophrenia," Wirshing said.
Abrams was found guilty Aug. 24 of two counts of murder and other
charges in connection with an incident on May 3, 1999, in which he drove
a car onto the crowded playground of a Costa Mesa day care center.
He could face the death penalty if he is found to be sane, but his
attorneys are in the middle of a weeks-long defense to argue that he was
mentally incompetent at the time of the incident.
Wirshing interviewed Abrams on two occasions after his arrest and
reviewed the tapes and transcripts Abrams generated in his discussions
with police after being taken into custody.
Through Wirshing's testimony, Gragg established that many of the most
bizarre aspects of Abrams' story are strongly correlated with
characteristic schizophrenic behavior.
Abrams told police, for example, that he had been manipulated by
"brain wave people" for years before taking his grim action, and that at
certain times these people "turned the volume up" and spoke directly into
This form of auditory hallucination, Wirshing testified, is a classic
symptom of schizophrenia.
"That's important, because [auditory hallucinations] are uncommon in
other illnesses that you might consider for a diagnosis," Wirshing said.
The defendant also claimed that the brain wave people communicated
with him through an elaborate system of codes and signals that were
embedded in things like license plates, addresses and articles of
clothing and jewelry.
Such loaded perceptions, Wirshing said, are indicative of a psychosis
involving an "idea of reference" in which virtually everything seems to
communicate a message.
"Anything in the world can be perceived as having special meaning,
where you and I might look at it and say 'that's just noise,' " he said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Debora Lloyd has contended that Abrams' actions are
best understood as a form of drug-induced psychosis, the result of years
of abuse of methamphetamines, cocaine and marijuana.
Gragg, in her questioning of Wirshing, went out of her way to consider
the possibility that Abrams' drug use -- to which he has admitted --
might have been responsible for his mental condition in 1999.
Wirshing did not think so, however.
"The vast majority of the time, [such drug-induced psychoses] are not
systematic. They don't last for years on end" as Abrams' delusions appear
to have done, he said.
The defense's case is expected to continue for about two weeks.