2017-09-29 11:17:47 UTC
Prosecutor to seek death penalty against Jason Brown, man accused of killing
Lt. Aaron Allan
The Marion County Prosecutor announced on Thursday that his office would be
seeking the death penalty against accused cop killer Jason Brown.
Brown, 28, is accused of shooting Southport Police Department Lt. Aaron Allan
multiple times after flipping his car near the intersection of Madison Avenue
and Maynard Drive on July 27.
Lt. Allan was rushed to the hospital where he later died.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said the decision to seek the death
penalty against Brown was made after going over hours of evidence and
interviewing everyone involved with the case.
"This is not a decision we make lightly and this is not a decision I make on my
own," said Curry.
The aggravated circumstances cited for the death penalty request are that Brown
murdered Lt. Allan while the officer was employed by the Southport Police
Department and was acting in the course of his duty as a law enforcement
Curry said over the 7 years that his he has served in the Marion County
Prosecutor's Office, 4 officers have been lost to intentional killings: David
Moore, Rod Bradway, Perry Renn and now, Aaron Allan.
In addition, Curry said they have had numerous officers shot, officers' houses
shot up and shootings at 2 police districts.
"As we've said on those occasions, and we'll emphasize again: We will not
tolerate attacks on our police officers," said Curry.
Json Brown made his 1st and only court appearance on August 9 after being
released from the hospital where he was treated for injuries he sustained from
the crash and gunshot wounds from the shooting.
When asked if he was sorry for what happened during that appearance, Brown said
nothing and continued walking into the courthouse.
Alton Nolen's defense calls 2nd psychologist
A 2nd psychologist called by Alton Nolen's defense team testified Tuesday that
it's possible Nolen's alleged mental illness started when he left home and had
to fend for himself.
"Nolen had never been out on his own. He isolated himself. He wasn't well liked
and everything started to spin out of control," Tulsa psychologist Anita Jeanne
Russell said. "He progressively declined and he continues to get sicker."
Russell is the 2nd psychologist to testify this week to aid in defense, which
is seeking a not guilty verdict by reason of insanity. Russell, like Texas
psychologist Antoinette McGarrahan, who also testified, determined Nolen was
mentally ill at the time of the offense.
"Nolen suffered from not being able to understand the wrongfulness of his
actions," Russell said. "I found him to be extremely delusional."
Nolen, 33, graduated in 2003 from Idabel High School and later attended
college, where he received "A" grades in 2 classes before dropping out. Russell
said he subsequently moved away from home and worked low-skill jobs.
Nolen is charged with beheading former Vaughan Foods coworker Colleen Hufford
and attempting to behead another on Sept. 25, 2014, after he was suspended from
his production line job.
Since the attack, Nolen, a Muslim convert, has been adamant about pleading
guilty and receiving the death penalty.
"I'm not dumb, I do not have a mental illness. I'm pleading guilty and I want
the death penalty," Nolen said during a hearing in 2016. "I'm not here to talk
about the situation; I'm here to make a plea. I'm being held captive by people
who do not believe in the one true God."
Russell said when she first evaluated Nolen in 2015, he was cooperative, but
that changed when she returned to talk to him in May.
"He didn't want to talk to me at all," she said. "In 2015, he made it clear
what he wanted (the death penalty), and he saw me as a way to get it."
The way Nolen acted toward Russell when she visited him in May is similar to
the way he has been behaving during court proceedings the last few months.
With his head down, eyes closed and ears covered, Nolen agrees to appear before
the court each day, but his cooperation with defense counsel continues to be
Russell's testimony continues today.
After Executions, Defense Attorneys Have Their Own Grief----A therapist on the
emotional price lawyers pay to defend individuals sentenced to death.
In some human endeavors it may be reasonable to expect a correlation between
effort and achievement, but not in capital defense, especially when you're
defending people who have already been sentenced to death. Talent and
dedication don't much change those odds.
"It's a tremendous feeling of helplessness," one attorney told me. "I'm doing
everything right, I'm doing my job, I'm doing my job really well, and my client
is still getting executed."
As a clinical mental health counselor and researcher specializing in the
emotional impact of the death penalty, I have spoken with dozens of family
members of homicide victims and family members of executed persons throughout
the United States, and I've seen that the executed criminal is not the only
person affected by an execution. The circle of people profoundly affected is
larger than most realize.
When I conducted in-depth interviews for my book "Fighting for Their Lives"
with 20 experienced capital defense attorneys who had lost at least one and
often several clients, for instance, I learned that these stakeholders are
affected in some very particular ways - and that in most cases, they hadn't
talked to anyone about this before.
More than one attorney told me that having a client on death row is like seeing
someone tied to tracks as a train is approaching. The defender's job is to try
to untie the knots in time to prevent the collision, and they're attempting
this rescue under the most difficult conditions.
The task is at once urgent and protracted - months or even years of low-grade
anxiety punctuated by sudden crises and intense deadlines - so that death
penalty lawyers are like some kind of a cross between emergency responders and
end-stage oncologists. The difference is that they are fighting for lives many
people don't consider worth saving.
And, while others might have a stake in the life of an individual facing
execution, the defense attorneys are the ones who are supposed to have the
tools to stop that execution. It's a legal responsibility that ends up feeling
personal; the clients' lives are in their hands. Attorneys I interviewed told
me that even if they might long for relief from the rising panic that fills the
weeks and months before a client's execution date, taking time to do or even
think about anything else can feel irresponsible.
Then come the last visits or phone calls, during which they have to admit that
they've run out of options.
One defender I interviewed recalled her struggle to explain to her client with
intellectual disabilities that she had not been able to save him after all.
Another attorney could not keep from choking up as he told me the story of a
client offering him reassurance just moments before the guards came to escort
him to the execution chamber. "It's okay, you did your best," the client said.
Feeling that they hold their clients' lives in their hands, maintaining a
tenuous balance between hope and despair, it's hard for lawyers not to
experience the executions as failures, even if they can talk themselves out of
that conclusion intellectually.
"No matter how much you tell yourself that you've done everything you could do,
your job was to save his life and you didn't," one attorney said, remembering
how he collapsed into sobs one morning after losing 3 clients in 3 weeks.
Another attorney offered an analogy: "You put yourself between your client and
the execution. And so when you fail, what that means is that [the state has]
walked over you and gotten your client in the chamber."
After an execution, attorneys have to pick themselves up, sometimes with little
time before work on the next case must begin. There's anger and exhaustion, of
course, and, as one put it, "an abiding sadness that never goes away." Repeated
exposure to the inner workings of the death penalty leaves them numb but also
raw, and shakier sometimes than anyone might realize.
They surprise themselves by panicking when they see an execution scene in a
movie or breaking unprompted into tears when they have a few moments alone in
the car. Sometimes they feel unable to be around other people. They worry about
what their work might be doing to their health, or to their relationship with
None of this leaves much time for self-reflection or belief that anything good
would come of publicly revealing the personal impact of the work. Capital
defenders would be the 1st to declare that they are not at the center of any
death penalty story and can't claim the greatest suffering, and their focus is
quite rightly on their clients rather than on themselves.
Defense attorneys are not at the center of the death penalty story, but the
penalty's impact on these unique stakeholders is significant. It demands that
we take seriously the wide-ranging implications of each execution.
Impact on defense attorneys matters, just as it matters that executions have
long-term consequences for the emotional health of the family of the executed
person, or the prison guards, or the clergy. Consideration of the death penalty
requires consideration of all the people it ultimately harms.
(source: Susannah Sheffer is a clinical mental health counselor and researcher
specializing in trauma and capital punishment. She is the author of "Fighting
for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys"
(Vanderbilt University Press, 2013), from which this piece is
Airport shooting suspect has stopped taking medication but remains competent,
Esteban Santiago, the man accused of killing 5 people and wounding 6 others at
Fort Lauderdale's international airport, is under increased medical scrutiny
because he has been refusing prescription medication, court records show.
In recent weeks, Santiago has not been taking medication to treat his
schizophrenia diagnosis, according to his attorneys.
Santiago's defense team said he remains legally competent to stand trial but
his mental status and other issues that might possibly delay the trial,
tentatively scheduled for January, are expected to be discussed during a
Thursday afternoon court hearing in federal court in Miami.
"Recently, multiple weekly visits - including by the defense's mental health
consultant - have resumed as the defendant has begun declining his
antipsychotic medication. There has not, however, been any discernible change
in [his] behavior during that time," his lawyers wrote in a status report filed
in court earlier this week.
Santiago, 27, has a documented history of psychiatric problems and has been
taking the medication Haldol since shortly after his arrest for the Jan. 6 mass
shooting. The Iraq War veteran has pleaded not guilty to 22 federal charges
linked to the incident.
His trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 22.
Hurricane Maria's recent devastating hit on Santiago's native Puerto Rico has
also had an effect on preparation for the trial, the lawyers wrote in other
Santiago grew up in Puerto Rico and most of his family still lives there. The
defense team said the crippling effects of the massive hurricane have limited
their ability to communicate with potential witnesses in Puerto Rico and
delayed officials there from supplying records that have been subpoenaed from
Some of the records sought include medical and other records concerning
Santiago's service with the Army National Guard in Puerto Rico and Alaska.
Federal prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty or
life in prison if Santiago is convicted. A panel of experts in the U.S.
Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., will consider presentations from the
prosecution and defense before U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes the
final decision. The decision process can take several months to more than a
year, experts said.
The defense team has to submit an extensive package to the panel that details
any possible "mitigation" or reasons why they believe the death penalty would
not be the appropriate punishment for Santiago. One of the defense experts, who
was scheduled to travel to Puerto Rico this week, had to postpone the trip
because of the power outages and recovery efforts there, records show.
U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom agreed to give the defense team a little more
time to submit that information. They were facing a Nov. 3 deadline but now
have until Nov. 22.
Bloom has been closely monitoring the case and has expressed concerns about
Santiago's competency and his prior refusal, at times, to take medication. But
the defense has assured her in the past that Santiago remained legally
competent because he understood the nature of the charges against him and the
legal process, and has been able to help his attorneys to prepare his defense.
Santiago surrendered to law enforcement immediately after the shooting and
confessed, according to the FBI.
He initially told agents that he acted under government mind control but later
said he had been influenced by reading propaganda posted online by the Islamic
State terrorist group. Authorities have said they found no links to organized
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
DeathPenalty mailing list