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East Ventura County Focus

VENTURA : Kidnaping Expert Allowed to Testify

November 19, 1994|DWAYNE BRAY

An expert on kidnaping will be allowed to testify at the Mark Scott Thornton murder trial, a judge ruled Friday, handing a setback to the man accused of killing Westlake nurse Kellie O'Sullivan and abducting his former girlfriend.

But Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath said that psychologist Chris Hatcher may only testify generally about how kidnap victims become paralyzed with fear and other emotions when they are abducted.

Hatcher will not be allowed to testify about harm done to the former girlfriend, Stephanie Campbell, whom Thornton has admitted abducting hours after O'Sullivan was killed.

Thornton is charged with murder under the special circumstances of kidnaping and robbery, crimes that could send him to the gas chamber if convicted.

Prosecutors say he killed the nurse and stole her truck on Sept. 14, 1993. Then he kidnaped Campbell and kept her for five days, until he was arrested at a casino in Reno, they allege.

The defense has said that Campbell was free to leave Thornton at any time during the five days they were together. But Campbell testified that Thornton was armed with a revolver and threatened to kill her if she tried to escape.

Hatcher will testify that kidnap victims, especially young ones, frequently believe that they have a better chance at not being harmed if they cooperate with their abductors and do not try to escape, Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter D. Kossoris said.

But Deputy Public Defender Howard J. Asher said that Campbell explained herself well enough during two days on the witness stand, and argued against Hatcher analyzing her actions for the jury.

"Ms. Campbell's behavior was not so paradoxical that the jury couldn't understand it," the defense attorney said.

The trial will begin its fourth week with testimony Monday.

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