Family testimonies continue in Underwood hearing - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Family testimonies continue in Underwood hearing

By Delivrine Registre - bio | email

December 16, 2008

SYLVESTER, GA (WALB) - A cousin and two aunts recalled physical and emotional abuse they say Jamie Underwood suffered as a child.  But the defense began with an expert witness who discussed Underwood's intelligence.

Dr. Barry Crown, a psychologist from Miami, Florida started out day two for the defense explaining the frontal lobe damage he found while testing Jamie Underwood. "The frontal lobe is involved in reasoning, judgement , concentration, attention, and understanding the long term consequences of immediate behavior," said Dr. Crown.

Damage, Crown said, possibly began before Underwood's birth. "Problems related to delivery, nutrition issues for the first two to three years, and I understand that Mr Underwood was struck by a car causing a head injury."

Those problems may also have contributed to Underwood's I.Q. score. "A full scale of 75 is at the fifth percentile. That means that in a line of 100 people, 95 people would be ahead of someone with an I.Q. of 75," said Dr. Crown.

But Tift District Attorney Paul Bowden said this damage played no role in the crimes committed in September 2005.

"In your opinion is Jamie Underwood able to recognize objects? yes. If he saw a baseball bat he would recognize it as a baseball bat? Certainly. Would he understand what a baseball bat is used for? Yes. He understands that if you hit someone with a baseball bat it could cause grievous injury or death? Yes."

He also questioned Crown's findings in previous death penalty cases in other states. "I have found brain injury, yes. You found it in the Gregory vs Thompson case in Tennessee? Yes. And in the Morris vs McKenny case in Florida? yes."

This was Bowden's same response to Tracy Walker's testimony of the physical and emotional abuse she and Underwood experienced as children. "If there were more love and support in the home, it would have been different," said Underwood's cousin.

A message the defense hopes Tift Superior Court Judge McCorvey considers when he makes his decision. Underwood is on trial for his life for those mass murders during four violent home invasions around Tifton in 2005.

Three other people face charges for these murders, but their trial dates have not been set. Defense attorneys for Stacy Sims have asked to be withdrawn from the case because the Capital Defender Project failed to pay fees associated with the case. Sims also faces the death penalty for these crimes.

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