The Sentencing of Gabriel Armandariz: Day Six

Monday is day six in the sentencing phase of the Gabriel Armandariz capital murder trial. He was convicted on February 27, 2015 of killing his two children in 2011.

The defense called on expert testimony to tell the jury about an MRI scan conducted of Armandariz's brain. The first witness was Dr. William Orrison.

Orrison is a Neuroradiologist from Las Vegas, Nevada. Orrison explained to the jury that upon examination of Armandariz's brain scans he found three different types of brain abnormalities.

The first was a Chiari One Malformation. He explained that this abnormality meant that Armandariz's brain drops into the spinal area.

He told the jury a person that suffers from this abnormality could experience severe headaches. Although treatment to relieve the pressure is available, actually fixing the problem would require surgery.

The State pointed out that Armandariz suffers a very mild case of Chiari Malformation. Lisa Tanner, the prosecutor, said that there are more severe levels, such as, Chiari 2, 3, and 4.

Tanner also pointed out that this type of abnormality is most common. Orrison agreed when Tanner pointed out that most people that suffer from mild cases do not experience symptoms.

The next area of abnormality was a reduced hippocampus. This means that the hippocampus in Armandariz's brain is smaller than an average sized one.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that controls emotion and affects memory. Orrison said this type of injury could impact emotional reactions.

In testimony, Orrison did point out to the jury that every brain reacts differently to trauma. Orrison also clarified that he was making no clinical evaluations, just strictly analyzing the scans themselves.

Tanner countered that abnormality by linking it to continuous substance and alcohol abuse.

The third brain abnormality Orrison found was several spots of brain shearing. He said those spots were found on Armandariz's frontal lobe. Orrison said it's this area of the brain that's responsible for cognitive reactions and process.

He said this type of damage could impact a person's personality, and cognitive abilities, like decision-making. Tanner countered the defense witness by saying Armandariz had an aggressive, violent personality before the any type of traumatic brain injury, therefore the damage couldn't have changed his personality.

Tanner also pointed out that MRI scans are subject to interpretation by different Radiologist and Doctors, Orrison agreed.

The second witness for the defense Monday was a Neuroscientist. The defense called to the stand Doctor Jeff Lewine. Lewine explained for the jury additional testing that was conducted on Armandariz.

He told the jury he tested Armandariz with a Functional MRI, EEG, and QEEG. He said it was through these tests that he could look at Armandrariz's brain function, as well as damage.

He took findings of Armandariz's brain and compared it to 600 other average brains. He was able to testify to jury that Armandariz's brain was abnormal.

He found that, when compared to the other brains, his brain has many statistical indicators of damage. And concluded to the jury that Armandariz's brain isn't just damaged, but dysfunctional.

Lewine told the jury that chronic stress has significant impacts on the brain. If stress becomes chronic, the brain releases toxins that actually damages parts of the brain.

But in cross-examination the prosecution was very aggressive with Lewine. They brought up that the American Academy of Neurology has discouraged the findings of QEEG's to be presented in a criminal court.

They also countered saying the results of those tests in no way predicts the behavior or action one person does.

Lewine agreed with Tanner, saying there are people with normal brains that act abnormal and people with abnormal brains that act normal.

The prosecution also brought up that no psychological evaluation was conducted in this case. Furthering that the testing is inaccurate.

Tanner also told Lewine that in May 2011, Armandariz was diagnosed with Anti-Social Personality Disorder. It's a disorder that has caused some of Armandariz's aggression and failure to abide rules.

The defense called their last expert witness to the stand, Richard Ray Miles.  Miles spent 15 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Prison System.

He was exonerated in Dallas in 2012. However, before his testimony began the State objected to his testimony, saying he was not an expert of the prison system. Judge Bristow agreed.

Miles was able to give his testimony without the jury present. He told the court reporter that when an inmate gets to prison all the inmates know the crime they committed.

Day's earlier testimony from another prison expert told the jury that wasn't the case.

Miles went on to say sexual assault convictions and child murderers were the two most targeted crimes for prison violence. Miles said when Armandariz gets to prison, he will essentially have a bullseye target on his back.

Miles was expected to wrap of the defense witnesses, but the court adjourned today without the defense resting. It will pick back up at 8:30 Tuesday morning.