Psychologist says Rodriguez has a number of mental problems
Fargo, N.D. — (AP) - A psychologist testified Wednesday that Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. suffers from a number of mental problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the effects of sexual abuse, drug abuse, exposure to chemicals and racism.
Marilyn Hutchinson says Rodriguez has the mental development of someone who is between 10 and 13 years old. She says he would act out sexual fantasies when he felt angry.
Jurors are considering whether to sentenced Rodriguez to death for the killing of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin. His attorneys are asking jurors to consider a number of factors -- including his childhood trauma and exposure to chemicals -- that would help spare his life.
Hutchinson is from Kansas City, Missouri. She's testified in hundreds of criminal cases, including about a dozen death penalty cases. She interviewed and tested Rodriguez twice in the Cass County Jail.
Hutchinson says that before Rodriguez got out of prison in 2003, after serving time for earlier assaults on women, he asked a psychologist for help. She says that's unusual and she thinks he was making, in her words, "a big statement."
Earlier, Rodriguez's sister testified that her brother was sexually abused as a child. Sylvia D'Angelo said he was molested when he was 4 years old and she remembers "a lot of times being hungry, being scared," as the migrant family struggled with poverty in the Red River Valley.
D'Angelo, who now lives in New Jersey, said she is 2 years older than her brother and the oldest child in the family. She said Alfonso, known as "Tito" to family members, was molested as a child by a woman in a migrant camp near Crookston, and another time by a man from another migrant family who was supposed to be working with her parents. She said the man molested both her and her brother.
D'Angelo, who fought back tears, said she and Alfonso did poorly in school and were picked on by other youngsters who called them "dirty Mexicans."
"We had problems because we were strange. We were a different color," D'Angelo said.
She also remembered chemicals sprayed on the sugar beet fields where they worked.
"Our father would tell us that when we would see the planes coming toward us, to hide under the leaves," she said. Chemical residue would stick to their skin and hair, she said.
Defense attorneys say Rodriguez's exposure to DDT and other farm chemicals led to mental and physical problems they believe the jury should consider in sentencing.
D'Angelo said she has suffered from headaches, blurred vision, dizzy spells, tremors and a lack of feeling on one side of her body at times.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)