Click here for Part I of this series: The Horrific Childhood of Duane Owen
Click here for Part II of this series: Duane Owen’s Mental Health History: Evidence from 1999
Click here for Part IV of this series: Governor Appoints Psychiatrists to Determine if Duane Owen is Too Mentally Ill to Kill
Dr. Barry Crown testified at the 1999 retrial and conducted a neuropsychological exam on Owen.
Owen’s IQ was determined to be 85… “roughly at the 37th percentile, meaning 63 out of 100 people would get a higher score…”
Owen’s ability to process information and make judgments was significantly impaired. Owen was also impaired in concentration, attention, and mental flexibility.
Dr. Crown testified that these impairments “would have impacted [Owen’s] ability to conform his conduct.”
The jury ultimately rejected the insanity defense and convicted Owen.
The trial court found two relevant statutory mitigating circumstances: (1) that Owen committed the crime while under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance and (2) that Owen’s capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to confirm his conduct to the requirement of the law was substantially impaired.
The court also found, among other mitigation, that Owen suffered from organic brain damage.
On March 23, 1999, the trial court sentenced Duane Owen to death.
Several experts testified at an evidentiary hearing in 2006 for Owen’s post conviction claims.
Dr. Henry Dee was asked to “do a neuropsychological assessment to see if there was any evidence of neuropsychological impairment.”
Owen had a 16-point split between his verbal and performance IQ. Dr. Dee explained that a split of such magnitude was “presumptive evidence of cerebral damage or disease.”
Owen’s performance yielded “full scale memory quotient of 78, which is strikingly below the full scale intelligence quotient and indicates cerebral damage. Brain damage, in simple terms.”
Because of his trauma and mental illness, Owen turned to alcohol “at a relatively early age… His drug use began with beer at ten or eleven.”
At the VFW home, Owen’s drug use expanded. Between the ages of 13 and 14, Owen was using drugs including “marijuana, hashish… seconals, black beauties… LSD and psilocybin mushrooms and peyote.” By 19 years old, Owen was using crystal meth.
Dr. Dee testified that “we now know… that the frontal lobes are not completely myelinated until probably about age 24.”
Dr. Dee concluded that the abuse of substances to cope with his illness further damaged Owen’s developing brain.