By Lisa J. Huriash South Florida Sun-Sentinel
August 17, 2007
Doctors called by his defense attorney said Thursday that Howard Steven Ault is a sick man, painting a grim picture of the child killer in an attempt to spare him from the death penalty.
A Broward County jury heard testimony from defense witnesses who said the convicted pedophile suffered from a post-traumatic stress disorder because of sexual abuse and other sadistic acts inflicted by his older brother when Ault was 7 years old.The jury will recommend whether Ault, 41, should stay in prison for life or be executed for raping DeAnn Mu'min, 11, and then killing her and her sister Alicia Jones, 7, in 1996 in his Fort Lauderdale home.
Dr. David Ross, a neurologist, told jurors Ault has an abnormal brain and that issues from the "dysfunctional parts" include apathy and problems with impulse control and judgment.Psychiatrist David Kramer told jurors Ault suffers from the effects of suicide attempts, learning problems, multiple head injuries and being a child of divorced parents.
Ault told Kramer that his older brother had raped him — "there were at least 20 or more incidents," Kramer said — and related that his parents were "powerless or unable to stop it."His "post traumatic disorder and pedophilia developed from his childhood experience of victimization," Kramer said, adding that a large number of such people go on to commit crimes.
But Kramer also said, under probing by prosecutor Tim Donnelly, that Ault told people he had been a victim of sexual abuse only after murdering the sisters. Kramer met with Ault just once, for two hours.Donnelly read testimony from Ault's 2000 trial given by psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter, who was unable to come to court Thursday.
She told the original jury she had given Ault a psychological test but the results were meaningless because he was "deliberately dis-reporting" his illness and "saying everything was a problem."She accused him of "feigning mental illness.""He is faking mental illness to avoid responsibility" for the crime, she said, according to the transcript Donnelly read, with a secretary from his office standing in for Carter. "He lied about so many things, it's hard to know what really happened to him."
Just after the 1996 killings, Ault told a detective in a taped confession that he was afraid the girls would tell on him and he could have faced 25 years in prison for violating his probation on an unrelated sexual assault charge. He stuffed their strangled bodies in his attic, threw their schoolbooks in the trash and then went to pick up his wife from work.Ault was convicted of the murders in 2000 and the jury recommended death.
The Florida Supreme Court upheld the conviction but vacated the sentence, saying a potential juror had been wrongfully removed. That ruling set the stage for the current penalty phase.
The hearing continues Monday, when jurors are expected to begin deliberations.