Psychologist says Evan Gargiulo, defendant in cabdriver's killing, was insane

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 10, 2010; B04

A nationally known psychologist, who for decades has testified exclusively as a prosecution witness attacking defendants' claims of insanity, appeared for the defense in Fairfax County on Tuesday and said a man who fatally shot a cabdriver in Tysons Corner was insane.

Stanton E. Samenow, who has written numerous books and articles on criminal psychology, said he agreed to testify on behalf of Evan D. Gargiulo after interviewing him for a potential sentencing hearing. Gargiulo, 23, is charged with murder in the November 2008 killing of Mazhar Nazir, 49, inside Nazir's cab. He has claimed that the shooting was in self-defense.

After spending more than 28 hours with the jailed defendant, Samenow concluded that Gargiulo had led such a sheltered life, and had developed such an exaggerated paranoia, that he could not distinguish right from wrong when he shot Nazir in the back of the head.

Nazir had driven Gargiulo from a Washington nightclub to Reston and then to Tysons Corner, and Gargiulo said Nazir became angry when Gargiulo informed him that he had no money to pay the $130 fare.

After killing Nazir, Gargiulo began using Nazir's cellphone to call his father and a college roommate, and Fairfax homicide detectives began to zero in on him. Two days after the killing, Gargiulo turned himself in, and he later provided a full videotaped statement to homicide detectives.

The jury on Tuesday saw the entire statement, in which Gargiulo wept when he recounted discovering that his wallet, keys and cellphone had been stolen while he was at the Fur nightclub on Nov. 2, 2008. "No one was helping me," Gargiulo sobbed. "I was just robbed; I lost everything."

Gargiulo then described asking Nazir to take him to his Reston apartment, where he retrieved his car keys and his loaded 9mm handgun. He said he then had Nazir take him to his vehicle at Tysons Corner, where he realized he had lost a roll of cash as well.

He said Nazir got angry and handed Gargiulo his cellphone, telling him to call friends. But their phone numbers were in his own phone, and he had lived in Virginia only three months.

Gargiulo said Nazir turned to grab at him, but he pushed Nazir's arm away. He then quickly drew his gun and fired once as Nazir faced forward.

Gargiulo said he thought Nazir was "coming over the seat at me. He's a big guy. I'm 5-6, 160 [pounds]. This guy could have dismembered me."

About two dozen of Nazir's friends, many of them cabdrivers, are watching the trial. They said Nazir was under six feet tall and weighed less than 200 pounds.

Detective John Wallace asked Gargiulo why he didn't call 911 to get help for Nazir. Gargiulo said he was afraid he would be arrested. Once home, Gargiulo cleaned the gun, threw away the bullets and threw away Nazir's cellphone when Nazir's wife began calling.

Samenow said Gargiulo's dismay at being robbed and his "enormous fear" of Nazir caused him to shoot without thinking of the consequences. "I haven't encountered somebody with this level of fear," Samenow said. He said there is no formal definition of Gargiulo's mental condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the accepted reference book for courts trying to parse mental illness and criminal culpability.

Samenow said later that his first appearance for the defense in an insanity case in 40 years showed that he has an open mind after decades of examining mentally ill defendants and finding them criminally responsible. He testified that he was paid $25,000 by the defense, which rested with Samenow as its only witness.

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