Mesac Damas’ case has dragged on for nearly eight years, marked by matches and stops — a visit to a state psychological hospital, a rotating door of public defenders and challenges to the state’s demise penalty regulation. This can be a timeline of the case.
Vonna Keomanyvong/Naples Every day Information
A number of abnormalities in Mesac Damas’ mind are in line with schizophrenia, a psychological sickness marked by a disconnection from actuality, a Naples neurologist testified Monday.
Damas, forty one, who pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder last month, was in court for a Spencer hearing, an opportunity for prosecutors and defense lawyers to present additional evidence before his sentencing Friday.
Collier Circuit Judge Christine Greider could sentence Damas to death for killing his wife and five young children in September 2009. Damas waived his right to a jury.
Jessica Gerster, the Collier County Crime Scene Investigator who worked the Damas investigation in September of 2009, presents the knife Mesac Damas used to murder his wife and five children to Collier Circuit Judge Christine Greider during a Spencer Hearing at the Collier County Courthouse Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 in Naples. Damas pleaded guilty last month to six counts of first degree murder in the killings of his wife and five children. He could be sentenced to death on Friday. (Photo: Luke Franke/Naples Daily News)
Damas’ court-appointed lawyers, James Ermacora and Kevin Shirley, are trying to keep their client off death row by presenting evidence that he is mentally ill and was raised in a violent and paranoid culture in Haiti by a family marked by religious tension.
“An individual’s mental health or lack of mental health is relevant with regards to sentencing,” Shirley said after the hearing. “If we have people who are mentally ill, we would like to think we don’t sentence them to death.”
Dr. Mark Rubino, a Naples-based neurologist, was one of two witnesses called by the defense Monday. In the courtroom, he analyzed MRI and positron emission tomography scan images of Damas’ brain taken in 2014, showing several abnormalities, including enlarged ventricles and atrophied temporal lobes.
Rubino called schizophrenia “a total misread of reality” and said it could lead to “impairment of judgment, planning, decision making, understanding the difference of right or wrong.”
Assistant State Attorney Rich Montecalvo attempted to poke holes in Rubino’s testimony, noting his qualifications as a neurologist rather than a neuro-psychologist, questioning the accuracy of the brain scans and pointing out that previous doctors who examined Damas found “no evidence…