OAKLAND -- A 16-year-old charged with two counts of murder in the killings of the parents who adopted him has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity as his attorney cited a rarely discussed mental disorder that affects some adopted children.
Moses Kamin suffers from dissociative disorder caused in part from early childhood trauma coupled with failed attempts to find his biological parents, Kamin's attorney Drew Steckler said.
Kamin is accused of killing Susan Poff, 50, and Robert Kamin, 54, by strangling the couple to death using a choke hold he learned in karate.
The killings occurred on Jan. 26 as Kamin, then 15, allegedly argued with his mother about being suspended from school for smoking marijuana. After killing his mother, police have said, Kamin waited in a dark room for his father to return from work and then surprised him with a choke hold after he entered their home at 284 Athol Avenue.
Kamin was charged as an adult in the crimes.
Steckler said his client suffers from several mental disorders that stem from a troubled early childhood during which he and his siblings were homeless and scavenged for food in trash cans around Oakland. After being adopted, Steckler said, Kamin had memories of that early childhood and sought information about his biological family but his efforts were stymied.
"It doesn't make sense to just strangle your parents to death because you are arguing about being suspended from school for smoking marijuana," Steckler said. "His mind was not right."
In addition to having a dissociative disorder, Steckler said his client also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and reactive attachment disorder.
Steckler said a mental health expert hired by the defense has already diagnosed Kamin with the disorders but with the plea entered, Kamin must now undergo analysis from two court-appointed psychologists or psychiatrists.
The findings of the court-appointed mental health experts can then be challenged by either Steckler or the Alameda County District Attorney's Office during a trial before a jury. Such a trial would take place immediately after a jury decides whether or not Kamin is guilty of the crimes.
If both experts find Kamin is insane, prosecutors could agree to the findings and Kamin would then be sent to a state mental health facility such as Napa State Hospital.
Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, declined to comment on the case.
Earlier this year, a judge ruled that prosecutors had presented enough evidence during a preliminary hearing to send Kamin before a jury on two charges of murder. Evidence presented at the hearing included a video-recorded interrogation of Kamin during which he admitted to the killings and revealed that he attempted suicide after killing his parents.
Steckler said the confluence of disorders suffered by his client resulted in the murder.
"We are talking about a subset of adoptees that suffer dissociative disorders and within that subset, there is another subset that commits homicide against their adoptive parents," Steckler said. "I'm not saying this was justified. It's a crime that fits a tragic pattern and it's profoundly sad."
Results of the analysis of Kamin are scheduled to be presented to a judge next week.