No mental status decision made on Taurus Carroll after hearing
by Elsie Hodnett
Apr 11, 2012 | 2320 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ASHVILLE — Two additional witnesses testified Tuesday at the Atkins hearing for a St. Clair Correctional Facility inmate charged with two counts of capital murder.

No determination was made at the Atkins hearing before St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Phil Seay regarding the mental status of Taurus Carroll, 34, however, Seay said he would rule on the matter before Carroll’s trial date on May 21.

Carroll is charged with the Sept. 14, 2009, capital murder of Michael Turner, 24, who was serving a 3-year sentence from Montgomery County for robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Bryan Griffith, a correctional officer at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, testified he knew Carroll through his work at the facility and spent time supervising Carroll in the kitchen where he worked as a baker.

“He was one of the better kitchen workers we had,” Griffith said. “He was always generally there on time, didn’t create problems and was able to do his job effectively and consistently without problems. He was always real quiet, soft-spoken and kept to himself a lot.

Taurus Carroll had always been what I consider a role-model inmate. We never had problems with him.”

Griffith said he was one of the first officers responding to Turner’s murder.

He said Carroll walked past the responding officers to return to the area he was supposed to be in, and cooperated when questioned regarding Turner’s murder.

M.C. Smith, an investigator with the Alabama Department of Corrections who investigated Turner’s murder along with investigator Robert Holtam, testified Carroll had no problems understanding questions or providing answers during an interview with both investigators.

“He appeared to be remorseful at the interview,” Smith said.

He said he inventoried Carroll’s one-man cell in the segregation block of the correctional facility last Friday.

“I observed books in his cell,” he said. “Carroll had several paperback books, about eight-nine, and one hard copy book. He had two Jet magazines that were addressed to him, and a USA Today magazine dated April 4 in another inmate’s name.”

Smith said Carroll also had a newspaper article pertaining to his mental evaluation in the cell.

Defense attorney Don Hamlin asked if it was usual for inmates to have books in their cells, and Smith agreed it was usual.

Hamlin asked if it was possible Carroll was “cloaking,” or trying to appear more intelligent, by having those books in his cell.

Smith said he had no opinion on the possible “cloaking” issue, and that it was a surprise to him to learn that Carroll had been treated for mental health issues while in the Department of Corrections.

“After the interview, he did say he was worried about being charged with capital murder,” Smith said.

After witness testimony concluded, Hamlin said the defense would like to submit legal briefs to the court.

Seay granted the defense 10 days to submit legal briefs, and the state five days to respond.

District Attorney Richard Minor said any criminal defendant in Alabama who alleges they are mentally retarded must have an Atkins hearing to determine whether or not they are eligible for the death penalty.

Minor said the Code of Alabama defines mental retardation as “a person with significant sub-average general intellectual functioning resulting in or associated with concurrent impairments in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period.”

Minor said to meet that definition, the defendant first must show significant sub-average intellectual functioning, an IQ of 70 or below. Second, the defendant must show significant or substantial deficits in adaptive behavior. Third, those problems must have manifested themselves during the developmental period, before age 18. To be classified as mentally retarded under Atkins in Alabama, all three of those criteria must be met.

Minor said an individual found by the court to be mentally retarded cannot receive a sentence of death under U.S. and Alabama law.

Carroll is serving life without the possibility of parole stemming from a 1998 capital murder conviction in Jefferson County.

He was removed from the general inmate population in September 2009 after Turner was stabbed to death.

According to the first count of the indictment Carroll “did intentionally cause the death of Michael Darrell Turner by stabbing him with a prison made knife,” and that Carroll caused that death after having been convicted of another murder within the last 20 years.

The second count of the indictment, also for capital murder, stated Carroll intentionally caused Turner’s death while under the sentence of life in prison.

Contact Elsie Hodnett at ehodnett@dailyhome.com.