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, testified a child psychiatrist at a custody hearing for the boy Monday.
Speaking in support of releasing 16-year-old Michael Morrison to a North Hollywood psychiatric hospital, child psychiatrist Noel Lustig said there is a "70% probability" that the boy has a hereditary mental illness that could be treated with antidepressant medication and psychotherapy.
Morrison now is in custody at Sylmar Juvenile Detention Center.
Lustig, who examined Morrison for an hour on May 22, the day before Morrison and a 16-year-old acquaintance allegedly robbed Encino Savings and Loan, 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."
Occasional Psychiatric Care
But Lustig said Morrison, who has been under intermittent psychiatric care since he was 12 and spent three months in a Utah reform school last year, cannot be properly diagnosed without a complete battery of medical tests.
Both Lustig and psychiatrist Robert E. Litman, who examined Morrison at the juvenile center Saturday, said they believe the boy may be suicidal.
In the Encino robbery, Morrison and 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.
Morrison and Berman also 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 after a high-speed car chase through Woodland Hills.
Transfer to Hospital Sought
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 hearing continued until today to allow a court-appointed psychiatrist to examine Morrison.
A hearing has been scheduled June 24 to determine whether Morrison and Berman will be tried as adults.
Litman, who practices psychiatry in Los Angeles, said his diagnosis after a 90-minute meeting with Morrison is that the boy is "in the early stages of a manic-depressive disorder."
Lustig, who examined Morrison at the request of his family, testified that the boy suffers from migraine headaches and "periods of grandiose acting-out alternated with periods of passivity," similar to those reportedly exhibited by his father, Allan Morrison, during his youth.
The senior Morrison, 50, pleaded guilty to bank robbery in 1963 and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
Lustig 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.
"The real danger is that his ability to be treated properly depends on how long he is allowed to continue this fantasy of being the criminal tough guy," Lustig said.