A jury could decide Thursday whether a man charged with abducting a 7-year-old girl from an apartment complex in Fat City in broad daylight last year and raping her in his car did so knowingly or because the drugs he had just injected reacted adversely with his damaged brain.
Attorneys for Steven Carter, 30, are trying to persuade the jury in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna that neurological tests show that Carter’s frontal lobe has damage that would explain his contention that he doesn’t recall kidnapping the girl from her Edenborn Avenue apartment while she played with her friends.
Prosecutors with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office, however, say Carter was able to distinguish between right and wrong and to understand the consequences of his actions. They say the drugs he took simply lowered his inhibitions enough to act on impulses he previously was afraid to follow.
Carter is charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The verdict will decide whether he goes to prison for the rest of his life with no chance for parole or probation or whether he is sent to a mental hospital under court supervision.
Investigators found DNA from the girl, now 8, on Carter’s penis, and she has testified that Carter forced her to perform oral sex on him before leaving her on the side of the street 2 miles from where he kidnapped her. Surveillance footage also shows him at the complex.
But Carter claims he has no memory of what occurred between the time he injected himself with cocaine and another drug and when he came to after the crime.
Prosecutors went after discrepancies in Carter’s testimony Wednesday and went through a statement to police when he seemed to recall more of what had happened.
Defense witnesses Shawn Agharkar, a psychiatrist, and Robert Shaffer, a neuropsychologist, testified that tests they did on Carter indicate that he has damage to the parts of his brain that help control anger and sexual impulses.
Agharkar said the effects of drugs — particularly drugs done intravenously for the first time, as Carter has testified — on such a brain are like “gas on a fire.”
Shaffer testified the brain damage could have been sustained while playing football in high school, and both he and Agharkar said Carter passed tests imbedded in their procedures to ferret out people who are faking.
Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese, however, sought to undermine Shaffer’s analysis by pointing out discrepancies between what Carter told Shaffer in interviews about earlier events in his life and some of Carter’s testimony about those events Wednesday.
Freese characterized the discrepancies between Carter’s testimony and what he told psychologists and investigators as simply the products of “a habitual liar who has trouble keeping his story straight.”
Testimony is expected to wrap up Thursday in Judge John Schlegel’s court, after which the jury will enter deliberations.