KNOXVILLE — A Marion County man's appeal of his 2009 murder conviction focused Thursday on his defense's failure to contact a psychiatrist.
Steven Dean McGinnis was found guilty in 2009 of the Sept. 21, 2008, murder of Rob Ohl. McGinnis and Ohl knew each other through the VA Medical Centers in Knoxville and Des Moines.
Dr. Bruce Sieleni testified in McGinnis' post-conviction relief hearing that defense attorneys in the 2008 murder case never contacted him, even though he treated McGinnis for years,
A veteran who served in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, McGinnis suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His defense of PTSD playing a role in Ohl's murder has previously been rejected by the court.
Though Sieleni had not treated McGinnis since 2004, Sieleni had knowledge of McGinnis' mental condition. Sieleni left the VA's employ in February 2006, to work for the Iowa Department of Corrections. When McGinnis entered DOC custody, Sieleni began seeing him again.
Sieleni describes McGinnis as someone who has greater problems than other patients.
"He has a significant - a very significant - mood disorder," Sieleni testified, including flashbacks. McGinnis occasionally loses himself among his surroundings and is unaware of what is going on.
The court also heard from Scott Gratias, a private investigator hired by McGinnis' defense. According to Gratias, the State struck witness Robin Matrie from its witness list shortly before the beginning of the murder trial. This made things difficult for the defense, as part of the strategy they had been developing for a year was to implicate Matrie in Ohl's murder.
"I wanted to point the finger at Robin," Gratias said. "I think she played a part in this."
Matrie was a recreation director for the VA prior to the murder. She took the stand as well, testifying that she was friends with McGinnis, and had known him since the 1990s. Because she knew McGinnis prior to the professional relationship developed through the VA, it did not violate the policy regarding fraternization between staff and patients at the time, Matrie testified.