Crime

Psychologist testifies in Smith trial

A clinical psychologist testified Friday that the San Miguel man accused of attempting to shoot to kill the woman he impregnated showed an emotional need for admiration and the effects of battered-man syndrome.

The 16th day of the Steven Smith trial continued in San Luis Obispo Superior Court with testimony from Ellen Stein, whom defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu hired to examine his client.

Her testimony portrayed Smith as a man with lower self-esteem than his outward bravado let on and as a man who felt as though he couldn’t escape Gina Stanko’s harassment — traits similar to those of a hostage.

But prosecutor Andy Cadena suggested Smith was a cheater who wanted out of his responsibilities as a father when he shot Gina Stanko — striking her in the chin, hand and skull — on Nov. 6, 2009. She survived the shooting.

Stein, who works in the San Diego area, conducted a battery of psychological tests involving hundreds of questions and personally interviewed Smith for nearly four hours, she said.

She said that Smith’s emotional need to feel admired and features of narcissistic personality disorder contributed to his infidelity with Stanko. And then Stanko’s alleged harassment, including death threats, made him feel as though he couldn’t escape, which is consistent with the feelings of a battered man, Stein said.

“It would make sense for someone to bring a gun into the home of a batterer because they feel emotionally overpowered,” Stein said. “They aren’t interested in hurting someone, but they want the playing field to be leveled.”

Smith had a fiancee during the time he had an affair with Stanko. Cadena asked Stein if a healthy ego could be a reason for Smith’s infidelity and noted that he had admitted to infidelity with another woman before his affair with Stanko.

“Isn’t it plausible he’s a cheater and a liar?” Cadena said, also suggesting Smith could be a “cad.”

Stein said that Smith’s infidelity didn’t appear to be based on malevolence, as Cadena seemed to describe it, but on a desire to satisfy his own need for admiration and support.

“Is it possible that maybe she’s just mouthy?” Cadena asked, referring to Stanko’s aggressive comments. “That maybe she just likes to talk — like a lawyer?”

Funke-Bilu jumped in to say, “Speak for yourself Mr. Cadena,” which resulted in laughter from many jurors and others in the courtroom.

Closing arguments are expected Monday at 10:30 a.m. in Judge John Trice’s courtroom.

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