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Michael Roberts, sentenced to death for a thoroughly contemptible crime—the brutal 1994 murder of his neighbor and friend, Mary Taylor, is set for execution by Missouri officials, an equally reprehensible violent act of much greater premeditation. He is scheduled to be lethally poisoned late Tuesday night, officially in the opening moments of October 3rd. He would be the 52nd human being executed by Missouri officials since the state resumed the barbaric practice in 1989. One would like to hope no officials revel in such macabre standings, but Roberts’ killing would place Missouri in sole possession of the shameful rank of third-most-killing U.S. state, passing up Florida.
The initial crime. Roberts told authorities in a videotaped confession that after he and friends ran out of crack cocaine and money, he went to Taylor’s house, sat and watched TV with her. After she asked him to leave to allow her to rest, he said he began to leave then struck her head several times with a hammer, strangled, stabbed her, then finally held her head under water in a large pot until she drowned.
The Mid-Missouri FOR condemns the horrific murder committed by Roberts and extends condolences to the family of Mary Taylor.
Horrific and abusive childhood resulting in untreated mental illness. While it certainly doesn’t pardon Roberts’ actions, his bizarre and impulsive behavior has root causes worth noting. He experienced an extremely traumatic childhood. For years he was sexually and physically abused by his father, beginning at seven years of age. The father also forced him to frequently "stand guard," preventing detection by his wife, while he raped Roberts’ older half sister.
Later, he did the same to his granddaughter—the off-spring of his incestuous abuse of his daughter. Not surprisingly, Michael later replicated the deviant cycle. He had sexual contact with his younger brother, his older half-sister, and his father’s grandchild when she was just five years old. When their father discovered his son’s sexual abuse of his grandchild, he severely beat both she and Michael, apparently out of a warped sense of ethics and jealousy.
Mental health professionals conducted the first psychological testing of Roberts when he was seven years old (and several other times over the years, as ordered by various schools). They found he was unable to control his behavior, became frightened and overwhelmed by aggressive, totally uncontrollable impulses. At least one later psychiatric hospital stay resulted in a recommendation of medication to help control his behavior.
However, he did not receive this medication or other needed mental-health care until after the offense for which he was ultimately sentenced to death. He grew up in such a radically dysfunctional home that his father—in an effort to hide his vile behavior--- prevented mental-health professionals from intervening to protect and treat his son.
Neurological testing performed on him just prior to the murder trial showed Roberts suffered from a mental disease or defect (left untreated for years) which, his attorneys contend, negated his ability to deliberate, something required for a first-degree murder conviction. A neurologist/psychiatrist, performed an electroencephalogram (EEG) on Roberts and found "brain abnormalities" in the frontal lobe similar to those present in a patient with epilepsy.
The doctor testified these abnormalities occurred in the area of the brain "having to do with emotional control," including the part "associated with impulsive behavior, (inhibition), mood swings, loss of judgment, reasoning, insight." He also noted that it is impossible for a patient to fake an EEG test result.
Prosecutors however, sufficiently cast doubt on the test’s accuracy by erroneously suggesting the machine was defective because a freak car accident --while the workers transported it across state to St. Louis-- had damaged an unrelated component of the machine. Unfortunately, health professionals neglected to utilize another available EEG machine in the St. Louis hospital, thus failing to eliminate the later room for doubt to be raised.
Roberts’ current attorneys note his case is one of "’institutional failure’ where the tools society has established for identifying and treating an at-risk child or youth, to help adjust to the demands of social life, or to separate (him) from general society in order to protect the person or society or both -- have not worked." In a summary of his case, they suggest if he "had received the help society holds itself out to provide, the act of violence for which a prosecutor (sought) the death penalty would not have occurred."
He has a 20-year history of hospital commitments beginning in the early elementary-school years, yet full assistance was stunted (especially during those earlier, more formative years, when it could have been most helpful) due to his father’s perverted interests. In common with thousands of other underserved mentally-ill Americans who engage in self-medication, Roberts as an adult later turned to crack cocaine, a drug only further compounding his impulsive behavior
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