An Oakland teenager accused of murdering his adoptive parents in January expressed frustration toward them and was involved in several confrontations with them in the months before their deaths, a defense witness testified today. Asked by prosecutor Joseph Goethals if Moses Kamin had expressed anger toward his parents, school psychologist Isabelle Waigi said, “I can’t say anger, but he was frustrated.
” Waigi said that on one occasion he pushed his mother, 50-year-old Susan Poff, up against a wall and held her arms because “she was acting up.” Asked by Goethals if Kamin had told her he’d been involved in a physical altercation with his father, 55-year-old Robert Kamin, Waigi said the teenager told him “his father used to hit him but he didn’t hit him anymore.” Waigi said Moses Kamin told her “his father had better not touch him” and he felt he needed to protect himself from his father.
Kamin, who was 15 at the time and is now 16, is being prosecuted as an adult on two counts of murder for allegedly strangling his adoptive parents, who were found dead in a PT Cruiser parked outside their home at 284 Athol Ave. in Oakland about 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 27. The couple, who adopted Kamin when he was six years old, worked for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Robert Kamin had worked with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department since 1994, providing mental health services to inmates, as well as working as a psychologist at Haight Ashbury Free Clinics-Walden House.
Susan Poff had worked with the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Housing and Urban Health Clinic since 2004 as a physician assistant. Moses Kamin admitted in an interview with two Oakland police officers on Jan. 28 that was played at the beginning of his preliminary hearing last Tuesday that he strangled his parents with a chokehold he had learned at a martial arts school. He said he had just been suspended from school for smoking marijuana and he didn’t want to deal with his mother’s anger. The Oakland police officers who interrogated Kamin read him his Miranda rights advising him of his right to have an attorney, but his defense lawyer, Andrew Steckler, is seeking to have Kamin’s confession thrown out because he doesn’t think Kamin had the experience or intelligence necessary to understand what those rights meant.
Steckler today presented four witnesses, including Waigi, who testified that Kamin had a learning disability, had below-average intelligence and wasn’t doing well in school. His strategy appeared to be to support his contention that Kamin didn’t understand his legal rights. A staff member at the Envision Academy of Arts and Technology in Oakland, where Kamin was a ninth-grader, said he only had a 1.63 grade point average on a scale in which 4.0 is the highest score.
Rebecca Thomas, the executive director of The Roleplay Workshop in Oakland, an after-school program for students with learning issues, said, “Moses was a little behind the curve and slow and had difficulty comprehending things.” But Steckler’s strategy may have backfired when Waigi said that after Kamin had participated in six counseling sessions with her he exercised his right not to participate in any more sessions.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson, who is presiding over the hearing, said Kamin’s exercise of his right not to have any more counseling sessions “sounds similar to a Miranda warning” about his right to have a lawyer present when he was questioned by police. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine if there’s enough evidence to order Kamin to stand trial on the two murder charges. Testimony in the three-day-long hearing concluded today and Jacobson will make his ruling on Wednesday.
But before he rules, Jacobson will first determine if Kamin’s confession is admissible. Goethals conceded today that his entire case at the preliminary hearing is based on Kamin’s confession and he hasn’t presented any other evidence to fall back on if it’s thrown out. Asked by Jacobson if he’s relying entirely on Kamin’s statement to police, Goethals paused and said, “We’re relying heavily on it” and admitted he hasn’t presented any other evidence.
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