Convicted killer Alan Brett Holland suffers from arrested development of his frontal lobes, a defense witness testified Tuesday, probably as a result of bathing his dog with strong flea chemicals at age 11.
"I believe his . . . poisoning would have been severe at any time," Santa Barbara-based neuropsychologist Cheryll Smith told the jury. "But the effect was particularly dramatic because it occurred at a time when his frontal lobes were immature. It may well have kept his frontal lobes from maturing."
Indeed, Holland shows all the signs of having a personality disorder based on brain damage, she told the jury: laughter and crying at inappropriate times, markedly impaired judgment and expression of rage at mild provocation.
During her testimony, Smith painted a picture of a young man whose life changed dramatically after his poisoning accident--his grades dropped, he stopped going to school, he ran away from home and he became a prostitute.
In December, a jury ruled that Holland killed 65-year-old Mildred Wilson in a Ventura mall parking lot so he could steal her car and purse.
Now, in the penalty phase of the trial, jurors must decide whether Holland should live the rest of his life in prison or be executed.
Smith was the most recent medical witness called by Deputy Public Defender Willard Wiksell in an effort to show that brain damage to Holland as a child has impaired his judgment.
Dr. Joseph Chong Sang Wu testified last week--using images of Holland's brain--that Holland has an abnormal brain.
In his cross-examination, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Blair sought to undermine the medical credentials of both witnesses.
He also questioned both witnesses' conclusions.