Henderson jurors defend decision — (Trench Reynolds Report)

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Trench Reynolds Report

August 22, 2007

After hours of determining his guilt, it took the jury fewer than 10 minutes to decide on a recommendation for Henderson’s punishment. Staples said nine jurors voted for life and three voted for death.

The brevity of the deliberations stemmed from conversations the group had earlier while determining whether to convict Henderson, Staples said. Jury members had discussed issues that would affect the penalty phase.

“In looking at it, a majority of us found that the death penalty was not appropriate in this case,” Staples said.

For Staples and the majority who voted for life, these mitigating factors stood out:

• Henderson’s criminal history: As far as the jury knew, he did not have a violent past.

• His love for his family: “Not one witness said he had (serious) problems with his family,” Staples said. “There was clear testimony all around he loved them.”

• His mental illness: “He didn’t get the care he needed,” Staples said, referring to Henderson’s psychiatric history. “Some, he sabotaged or didn’t want, yeah, but he was a kid and there was some responsibility on his parents and society to help him.”

Some testimony during the punishment phase of the trial also had an impact on why the jury did not recommend death, Staples said.

For example, Henderson’s grandfather, Loyal Stringer, described Henderson as “good guy.”

“It’s a tragic loss, but when his grandparents took the stand and proved they could still love him despite what has happened – that speaks toward what we had already thought.” Staples said. “That confirms our belief he wasn’t a cold, calculating monster.”

It took jurors 15-hours of deliberations but in the end they did the right thing. They saw through Richard Henderson Jr.’s excuses and convicted him of slaughtering his family.

The five-man, seven-woman jury found Henderson guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of his father, Richard Henderson Sr., 48; his mother, Jeaneane Henderson, 42; and his grandmother, June Henderson, 82. Jurors found Henderson guilty of second-degree murder for killing his 11-year-old brother Jacob, who was attacked first.

Accused killer Richard Henderson Jr. rose from his seat Monday, walked to the jury box and stood directly in front the jury whose members will decide his fate

The 22-year-old, on trial for allegedly bludgeoning four family members to death on Thanksgiving Day 2005, rolled up his sleeves and exposed scarred forearms.

Some jurors leaned in towards him and closely observed dozens of marks on the defendant’s arms – the result of self-mutilation, according to Henderson’s lead defense attorney, Carolyn Schlemmer.

Earlier in the day, Nicholas Roberts – a defense witness who said he previously worked for Henderson’s parents doing lawn service – testified that he had seen Henderson cut himself when they were younger.

“He pretty much always had cuts on him,” Roberts said during the sixth day of testimony in Henderson’s capital murder trial.

Staples, razors, knives, “anything with a point on it,” are among some of the objects that Henderson used to hurt himself, said Roberts, who has known Henderson since eighth grade. Henderson also frequently talked about suicide, he said.

Dr. Dilip Chaparala, a psychiatrist at Manatee Glens who testified for the defense, confirmed Henderson’s self-mutilating and “superficial cuts.” He said he learned of the injuries because he said Henderson was admitted to the mental health facility on two occasions in 2001 and 2002 after getting in trouble for a group suicide plot involving three juveniles at Lakewood Ranch High School.

Let me stop Dr. Chalupa right there for a second. Since Henderson’s cuts were superficial it sounds like to me he was just an attention whore. Real cutters hide their cuts. And the group suicide plot was more than that, it was also a plan to attack a high school. Which is how I got interested in this case. But let’s get back to Dr. Chpotle…

Chaparala also said Henderson was diagnosed with major depression and that he was on and off of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications in the years prior to the killings. Some of the medicine included Lithium, Paxil and Zoloft.