Psychiatrist digs into possible mental condition of Miranda-Alvarez

By Brandon Walker - Reporter

HOUSTON - The woman charged with killing a mother and kidnapping her 6-week-old baby girl did not appear in Probable Cause Court Thursday.

Officials said Erika Miranda-Alvarez, 28, did not appear in court because of medical treatment. The type of treatment was not disclosed.

It's likely, said a leading expert in the psychiatry field, Miranda-Alvarez's mental condition will be evaluated.

The results, in turn, could be used by her defense, to argue insanity -- meaning Miranda-Alvarez's mental illness prevented her from realizing what she did.

"There's a range of reasons that people act strangely," said Dr. Richard Pesikoff, a psychiatrist with Baylor College of Medicine.

Pesikoff's work has been used in a variety of cases, including the mental defense of Andrea Yates.

Pesikoff did not evaluate Miranda-Alvarez, but explored the path her evaluation could take, considering the allegations.

One diagnosis to consider, Pesikoff said, may be postpartum psychosis, which affects a small percentage of women.

"That's a psychotic disorder and a psychotic disorder involves delusions, false beliefs," Pesikoff said.

Pesikoff added individuals diagnosed with postpartum psychosis likely experience:

  • Belief in something that is not reality.
  • Action, based on a false reality.
  • Consequences run the gamut, but include decisions which result in "horrendous consequences."

Any diagnosis would have to be debated in court and a jury would decide if the claims are suitable enough to affect its verdict.

"To get an insanity verdict, you need to prove that at the time of the commission of the act, the individual was under such severe mental illness that they didn't know, and that's a critical word – know – the difference between right and wrong and they didn't understand the consequences of their act," Pesikoff said.

Miranda-Alvarez's next scheduled court appearance is Dec. 27.

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