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Death Penalty Defendant Not Entitled To Additional Psychological Testing

An Ohio Appeals Court has rejected a post-conviction request by a defendant facing the death penalty for additional psychological and neurological testing.

The case is State v. Mammone, 2012-Ohio-3546.

The Defendant was convicted of murdering his former mother-in-law and his two children, ages five and three. The jury recommended the death penalty and the trial court sentenced appellant to death.  The Defendant has a direct appeal pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.

In 2011, the defendant filed with the trial court a petition for postconviction relief.  The trial court denied the petition, finding that the defendant he did not present sufficient evidence to warrant a hearing.

The noteworthy claim by the Defendant is that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to obtain a neuropsychologist to evaluate him and failing to request neuroimaging.

At trial, a forensic psychologist testified for the defendant in mitigation.  He was appointed at the request of the defendant’s counsel.  In the Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, the defendant attached an affidavit of a board certified forensic psychologist.  The new psychologist said:  “I strongly recommend that [the defendant] be evaluated by specialists in the field of neurology, neurophysiology, and neuropsychology to determine the existence of brain dysfunction, neurological insults, and/or neuropsychological deficits.”

The court rejected this argument.  The original psychologist testified he has conducted  neuropsychological assessments requested by neurologists, neurosurgeons, and other specialists to determine “whether some of their patients may have deficits that haven’t maybe turned up on MRIs and cat scans, but that may show up in neuropsychological testing.”  He also met with the defendant seven times with twenty hours of face-to-face time and his evaluation included numerous tests as well as a “review of a very extensive collection of case relevant background records” and third-party interviews.  He found no indication of any brain disorder or brain damage, but instead found the defendant to have a severe personality disorder not otherwise specified with schizotypl, borderline, and narcissistic features.

The court noted that the new psychologist “possesses the same credentials as” the original psychologist.  The court said the Petition for Post-Conviction Relief should be denied:

We fail to see that the presence of a contradicting opinion by one who never interviewed appellant would result in any affirmative help to appellant’s case.  The affidavit is only an offer of a contradicting opinion and not definitive evidence on the issue.



I Sought Death Penalty for Timothy Hancock. He Received Life Without Parole. Now he Has Tried to Kill Again (Twice)

Timothy L. Hancock is again accused of attacking a fellow prisoner, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Five years ago, I argued that Hancock should receive the death penalty before a Warren County jury.  The jury spared Hancock’s life, sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 2001, Hancock was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death.  He strangled his cellmate in Warren Correctional Institution.  Hancock was already serving a life prison term for a 1989 murder when he killed his cellmate.  Hancock was motivated, prosecutors believed by hatred of his child rapist cell mate because he was gay.

After the Ohio Supreme Court found error in the original sentence, a new jury was empaneled to decide whether to impose the death penalty.  The new jury weighed the seriousness of the crime against psychological or other factors, then was required to recommend a sentence to a judge – life with parole eligibility, life with no possibility of parole, or execution.

Authorities announced this week that Hancock had been indicted for felonious assault and possession of a deadly weapon.  The Ohio State Highway Patrol, which investigates crime reports at state prisons, reported that Hancock allegedly entered another man’s cell on May 14 at Lebanon Correctional Institution and attacked him with a shank.  The victim suffered only minor cuts to his back.

Hancock, according to reports, is also one of three prisoners listed as suspects in a conspiracy to commit murder at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.  The alleged conspiracy involved strangulation and poisoning. Two inmates required medical treatment, but prosecutors declined to go forward with criminal charges.

Hancock was reported to have a history of mental illnesses. However, testimony at his sentencing trial revealed that he often was felt to be a malingerer by mental health professionals.  In other words, he often faked symptoms of mental illness to receive better treatment in prison.

There is little dispute that Hancock has a history violence, and hatred of sex offenders and homosexuals.

Although the media seems to question why prosecutors declined to pursue charges in the Lucasville case, the more interesting question may be why the prosecutors chose to pursue charges for the new incident in Lebanon.  Prosecutions cost money, resources, and court time; since Hancock is already serving life without parole, an additional prison sentence would have very little affect.