POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The mind of a man convicted of killing a Tecumseh police officer was under scrutiny Wednesday as his defense attorneys try to convince the jury not to sentence him to death.
Earlier this week, Byron Shepard was found guilty of killing Justin Terney during a 2017 traffic stop.
Terney was a 22-year-old rookie with the Tecumseh Police Departments
As the state seeks the death penalty, his attorneys are asking the jury to show mercy.
On Wednesday, they called a neuropsychologist and a child psychologist to the stand.
The neuropsychologist testified that after spending eight hours with Shepard, she found him to have an unspecified neuro-cognitive disorder and an unspecified depressive disorder. As a result, she said that even compared to other men with similar socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, he had problems with normal functions like problem-solving, impulsivity, planning and organizing.
She attributed these disorders in part to alleged abuse and neglect at the hand of his mother and other parental figures, as well as to extensive drug use beginning at a young age.
Defense attorneys brought the child psychologist into the case to talk about the long-term effects of childhood trauma.
He testified that Shepard had experienced trauma, including abuse and parents who were frequent drug users, from a very young age. That trauma, he said, may have put Shepard on a bad trajectory for the rest of his life. The psychologist said these traumas explain but do not excuse behavior or choices he made as an adult.
But prosecutors passionately challenged both psychologists, challenging their objectivity in their findings, as well as suggesting they were making assumptions rather than basing the findings on fact.
The defense attorneys said on Thursday they plan to put some of Shepard’s family members on the stand to beg for his life.
The decision on the sentence is expected to go to the jury afterward.