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Psychotherapist Not Guilty in Prostitute's Murder, Jury Finds

January 29, 1988|From Times Wire Services

SANTA CRUZ — The co-founder of a psychotherapeutic discipline called neuro-linguistic programming was found innocent on Thursday of shooting a prostitute to death.

The case of psychotherapist Richard Bandler, charged in the death of Corine Christensen, was given to the jury late Wednesday, following a trial that packed courtrooms daily. The jury rendered its verdict after only 5 1/2 hours of deliberation.

The prosecution claimed that Bandler killed Christensen, but he testified that James Marino, an admitted former cocaine dealer and the prosecution's main witness, shot her to death with Bandler's .357-caliber Magnum while both were at the woman's home in November, 1986.

Bandler and Marino presented conflicting testimony at the trial. Marino claimed that Bandler was angry at Christensen because she was having a lesbian affair with Bandler's live-in girlfriend, and because she owed him money. Bandler claimed that Marino was convinced that Christensen arranged to have him beaten and was trying to have him killed.

Bandler was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read. His attorney, Gerry Schwartzbach, told reporters afterward: "The evidence was that he (Bandler) did not commit the crime. The quickness of the verdict spoke to the quality of the prosecution's case."

Assistant Dist. Atty. Gary Fry, who prosecuted the case, described himself as "surprised and disappointed." He said Marino would not be charged in the murder.

One juror who spoke on condition of anonymity said the jury determined there was reasonable doubt of Bandler's guilt. Other jurors declined comment on the verdict.

The key prosecution witness was Marino, who once served 18 months in San Quentin for burglary. After the preliminary hearing in the Bandler case, Marino disappeared for several months and failed to show up at the start of the trial on Nov. 2. He appeared after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Bandler, 37, gained a national reputation in the early 1970s when he and former UC Santa Cruz linguistics professor John Grinder co-founded neuro-linguistic programming, an amalgam of linguistics and hypnosis that studied how people influence each other in subconscious ways.

Bandler and Grinder claimed that therapists could use NLP techniques--scanning a patient's eye movements, speech pattern, body language, changes in skin tone or breathing--for a quick fix on the patient's problem. Then hypnotic techniques could be used to reprogram behavior. Bandler wrote 13 books on the subject.

Although somewhat controversial in psychological circles, NLP gained national popularity. There are hundreds of NLP "trainers" now giving seminars throughout the country. Bandler's work also attracted the attention of the U.S. Army and the CIA.

In 1980, Bandler and Grinder broke up their partnership, each to pursue his own vision of NLP.

Bandler testified that in the late 1970s he became a cocaine user. It was through cocaine that he met Marino, who dealt in the drug, and Christensen, who was Marino's former girlfriend.

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