May 10, 2012 Source : http://staugustine.com
A death row inmate convicted in a brutal stabbing death in a motel room in 2005 now must do what probably is familiar to him: wait.
James Daniel Turner was in court Wednesday for the second day of an evidentiary hearing in which his attorneys asked for a new trial. They said Turner’s former attorneys didn’t make the jury aware of significant mental health illnesses he had when Renee Boling Howard, 37, a mother of five, was stabbed to death at a Comfort Inn.
The hearing concluded before noon, and now Circuit Judge Wendy Berger will think over the matter before making a decision.
No date has been set for a decision.
On Tuesday, an expert witness for the defense said Turner suffers from bipolar and borderline personality disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and that the jury was not made aware of those diagnoses.
On Wednesday, an expert witness for the state said he does not believe Turner suffers from bipolar or borderline personality disorders.
Dr. Jeffrey Danziger, a Maitland-based psychiatrist and medical doctor, said the symptoms that led to those diagnoses were induced by Turner’s dependence on powdered methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol and did not appear in the seven years he was in prison.
Danziger said Turner “does not suffer from bipolar disorder because he hasn’t had a manic episode that I am aware of.”
He said accounts of manic activities such as Turner’s spending of a $25,000 settlement in one week and unstable romantic relationships, including three failed marriages, could be attributed to the effects of the substances.
Rather, “he has some situational unhappiness, and that’s to be expected” because he is in prison and sentenced to death, Danziger said.
He said Turner had not exhibited borderline behavior while in prison, such as cutting himself, banging his head against a wall or attempting suicide.
And the ADHD?
“Maybe,” Danziger said. But even if he does suffer from that disorder, “it has little to do with (the murder) in 2005.”
Danziger agreed with several previous diagnoses that found that Turner has frontal lobe damage.
He said those findings were “not surprising for someone who has a history of heavy substance abuse and maybe suffered some knocks to the head,” including head trauma in substance-induced car accidents.
A jury in 2007 found Turner, then of Silverstreet, S.C., guilty of stabbing Howard on Sept. 30, 2005, at the St. Augustine motel off State Road 207 and Interstate 95 after escaping from a South Carolina prison and stealing a police car.
Prosecutors said he stabbed Howard several times before turning to see her crawling toward the door and stabbing her again.
Two of Howard’s children, a 10-month-old and a 2-year-old, were in the room, as was her 10-month-old grandchild. They weren’t injured, but Howard’s friend Stacia Raybon was attacked twice before locking herself in the bathroom.
If Berger grants a new trial, it would be the third for Turner.
Berger declared a mistrial during Turner’s first trial in July 2007 when a juror had a seizure during consideration of the fifth and final charge against the defendant.
Jurors found him guilty Nov. 29, 2007, during his retrial and later recommended the death penalty.
Dr. Miguel Mandoki, a Jacksonville psychiatrist, said during the first trial that he believed Turner was insane when Howard was killed in St. Augustine.
In addition to the death sentence, Berger sentenced Turner to life in prison for home invasion robbery with a deadly weapon, five years for the grand theft of Howard’s Ford F-150 pickup truck and 15 years for aggravated assault on a police officer.
St. Johns County Deputy Graham Harris had testified that he chased Turner south on State Road 207 at speeds between 90 and 100 mph. He said Turner put the pickup truck in reverse and rammed his patrol car before jumping off the Deep Creek bridge.