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The Latest News Headlines

  • An Arizona couple is facing child abuse charges after police say they locked their four adopted children in separate bedrooms, restricting access to food and bathrooms. >> Read more trending news 
  • An Alabama police officer who was shot Tuesday night has died, authorities say. >> Read more trending news 
  • Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) called an Alabama push to arm teachers “the dumbest idea [he had] ever heard” and “crazy.” >> 5 things to know about Doug Jones, winner of the Alabama Senate race Alabama’s state House is considering a bill that would allow teachers to carry firearms. State Rep. Will Ainsworth – who is sponsoring the bill – introduced it during a press conference at an Alabama elementary school. Ainsworth, a Republican, said teachers carrying guns would be required to undergo 40 hours of training before being certified to carry a gun in the classroom, AL.com reports. The state won’t pay for a teacher’s gun. >> Trump sends memo to DOJ asking for bump stock ban after Parkland massacre Ainsworth said the law was about giving kids “a fighting chance.” “The only way we can do that is to have people armed in the schools to fight back,” he said. >> Read more trending news  But to Jones, the new law doesn’t make any sense. He told WKRG: “I think that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. I think it’s crazy. You don’t need 40 to 50 guns in there, and it’s a cost issue. You’re going to have to train those teachers. You don’t need to arm America in order to stop this; you just need to be smart about it.” Jones was elected to the upper chamber in December after a heated race with Republican candidate Roy Moore. The former U.S. attorney has advocated for gun control in the past while simultaneously being a Second Amendment supporter. During the Senate race, the National Rifle Association spent almost $55,000 on mailers against him. He was the first Democrat elected to a Senate seat from Alabama in over two decades. >> On Rare.us: A CNN panelist thinks the FBI didn’t act on the Nikolas Cruz warning because of his race This isn’t the first time that pro-gun politicians have suggested arming educators, but the notion is getting another push in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 dead. A sheriff in one of Florida’s biggest counties said his department is putting together a program to train and arm teachers. Even Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been asked about the idea, although she declined to take a stand on the issue, instead saying: “I think this is an important issue for all states to grapple with and to tackle. They clearly have the opportunity and the option to do that and there are differences in how states approach this.” Rare reached out to Sen. Doug Jones’ office but received no comment.
  • The Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s CEO said driverless vehicles will change the face of public transportation in Jacksonville. “This is not a question of if. It’s a question of when,” said JTA CEO Nat Ford. Rosalie Simcoe is one of the first people in Jacksonville to ride in the Easy Mile driverless vehicle operated by Transdev. “It was incredible. It was very smooth. I felt very safe,” said Simcoe. It’s a model that could soon be operating on Jacksonville’s streets and Skyway. “This vehicle here is the one that we currently have on our test track over by EverBank Stadium. And we’ll be running that vehicle for the next few months and then we’ll swap out, every so many other manufacturers’ vehicles. So, we’re in a test and learn phase,” said Ford. We took this driverless vehicle for a test run & found out what happens when a person steps in its path. Coming up at 5:15 on CBS47 @ActionNewsJax @JTAFLA pic.twitter.com/HrCDCMgOYG — Jenna Bourne (@jennaANjax) February 20, 2018 The prototype can travel up to 28 miles an hour, but for Tuesday’s demonstration at the University of North Florida, it was cruising at around 10 miles an hour. A man at the demonstration stepped in front of the driverless vehicle to show it sensed he was there, and it came to a stop until he walked out of the way. Ford said it would take about five years to convert Jacksonville’s existing Skyway infrastructure to support autonomous vehicles. “Concurrently with that, we are looking at deploying some pilot corridors, test vehicles that will operate in actual passenger service, so we can advance this technology and not wait for just the Skyway conversion,” said Ford. Earlier this month, Action News Jax showed you a different driverless vehicle model in Las Vegas that JTA is also considering. It’s the country’s only pilot program in traffic.  
  • Not only did Donald Smith have abnormally small and large portions of his brain, but he suffered brain trauma, according to an expert witness for the defense, who’s arguing that some of those abnormalities affect Smith’s behavior. He’s one of several expert witnesses the defense has called so far, to try to make their case that Smith cannot control his impulses, and acts without regard for the consequences despite knowing right from wrong.  FULL COVERAGE: The trial of Donald Smith Geoff Colino testified as an expert in forensic neurology for the penalty phase of this trial, where Smith could be sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. Colino told the jury Smith told him that in the weeks leading up to Cherish’s kidnapping, rape, and murder, he was feeling like he was “skating on thin ice” and knew we “was going to fall through”. Smith reported not sleeping, smoking crack virtually non-stop, taking other pills, hallucinating, and experiencing other effects.  Colino ordered several brain scans in order to get a more complete picture, and they were shown to the jury. Colino highlighted areas where Smith’s brain is larger than normal, all formed during development ahead of puberty.  “I can’t tell you what caused it, but I can’t see how there would be a choice in these things happening to him,” he said, in response to a defense question about the theme to the State’s case- that Smith was making choices.  Among the areas affected is the thalamus, which Colino says deals with a wide range of important tasks like regulating aggression, making decisions, maintaining a sleep cycle, and other areas. He says Smith’s poor decision making was in clear, as evidenced by his using crack cocaine and other drugs within a couple of weeks of having a heart attack.  Other areas of Smith’s brain were abnormally small, according to Colino. Among the areas affected are those dealing with memory, inhibition, and learning from undesirable experiences. Defense Attorney Charles Fletcher asked if that could explain how Smith could face criminal punishments for sex crimes, but continue to offend.  “If he does not learn from that, this explains why,” he said.  Colino also noted areas where he believes there was trauma to the brain, although he could not say what caused the trauma or when it happened. Based on Smith’s history and the symptoms, Colino believes it’s “clinically probable” Smith is suffering from CTE- which has gained attention in recent years through concussion awareness, especially among football athletes. To understand the impact of CTE, Colino told jurors to think of Smith’s ability to not act on an impulse, as a bicycle break.  “The cable is so frayed and stretched as to be nearly non-existent, non-functional. He can’t control his behaviors,” Colino said.  During cross examination, State Attorney Melissa Nelson pointed out that the same decision making area in question also governs the decision to deceive- with the state arguing Smith clearly planned and carried out a ruse as part of this crime. She then questioned Colino further about the cause of the brain trauma specifically, pointing to an area in his deposition where he said that could have been caused by a cardiac event. It led to a heated line of questioning, with Colino now saying that’s not the case, and that if he misspoke in the deposition, it’s because he only had two days to prepare and he was “sick as a dog” with the flu.  “You are making a very big deal about my saying yes,” Colino said.  “No sir, I’m making a big deal about the fact that you’re an expert witness offering an opinion to this jury,” Nelson said.  “I’m saying that, as a human being, I may have said yes, either not fully processing the question or because I had the flu, yes,” Colino said.  As highlighted by Fletcher, Nelson did not question the brain scans themselves. Multiple witnesses testified that the EEGs and information they had studied connected to Smith- dating back to the 1970s- do not show any evidence of brain trauma.  Looking beyond the physiology, a psychologist and pharmacologist also testified to try to round out the defense’s picture.   Forensic Psychologist Dr. Heather Holmes, who testified with an expertise in sex offender evaluation and treatment within the incarceration setting, diagnosed Smith with several personality disorders, including major depressive disorder, severe cocaine use disorder, pedophilic disorder, antisocial personality, and borderline personality features.  With the pedophilia, Holmes says there’s still no clear idea what causes it in any given offender.  “I can’t pin the tail on the donkey. I wish to God I could, but we just don’t know,” she said.  She says Smith had an “inappropriate” relationship with his mother, who was “enmeshed” with him and overprotective, including paying his drug debts and funding prison protection. Despite that, Holmes says Smith had a “privileged” upbringing, and there was no clear incident she could see as being any trigger or explanation.  But because Smith had not been receiving regular treatment, Holmes says it’s safe to assume his pedophilia was getting worse as he reinforced it over time with action. The same is true of Smith’s drug use, with him having a tendency toward smoking crack cocaine.  “Due to the combined effects of chronic substance abuse and use disorder that was from childhood through current, multiple major psychiatric disorders, chronic cocaine binge use or crack cocaine binge use, including the recent addition of the psychiatric medication- that Mr. Smith would have been impaired to the degree that his normal judgement, skills, and ability were profoundly diminished,” says Dr. Daniel Buffington, a clinical pharmacologist who testified as an expert in pharmacology.  Buffington says records showed him that, over time, there was an increase in the intensity of medication needed to manage Smith. At the time of Cherish’s murder, Smith reported not only using crack cocaine, but also a drug under the generic name Quetiapine or brand name Seroquel- which he got illicitly through his drug dealer’s sister. He says that combination could have created a “dangerous storm”.  Severe cocaine use alone, according to Buffington, could lead to paranoia, delirium, psychoses, and homicidal and suicidal thoughts, among other things. He says it also means the drug user will have problems with hygiene, communication, planning, judgement, and similar areas.  On cross examination, Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel confirmed that Buffington’s opinions on Smith’s state were based essentially only on what Smith reported to him, because there was minimal documentation of his drug activity, since most was not legal. Buffington said Smith appeared to be honest and forthcoming through their conversation, and he’s trained to look for exaggerations or withholdings in his conversations, although Caliel says other witnesses have classified Smith as deceptive and manipulative.  Smith’s drug use started young, with Holmes testifying that his step-father was a psychiatrist, who gave Smith prescriptions during his pre-teen years. From there, testimony has said Smith used marijuana, alcohol, LSD, and cocaine.  Holmes says Smith’s personality disorders don’t prevent him from being able to control his impulses, but drug use lowers inhibition.  Holmes says Smith admitted to her what he did, but that he showed no acceptance of responsibility at any time before then, sometimes blaming his lawyers and sometimes blaming his victims.  “He told you he blamed Cherish Perrywinkle for having had to kill her, didn’t he?” asked Nelson.  “Yes,” Holmes responded.  “He told you that he looked back, she got in the van, and he thought, quote-‘F***, I’m a convicted sex offender, how am I going to explain this’,” Nelson followed.  “Yes,” Holmes said.  She further confirmed Smith showed no signs of remorse while speaking about what he did.  While the defense has presented that, in the days ahead of Cherish’s murder, Smith tried to get himself committed under the Baker Act- saying that shows he couldn’t control himself and wanted to get help- the state says there are several other incidents in his past where Smith rejected treatment. That includes failing to abide by a treatment program that he agreed to when he was released from civil commitment.  All of this medical and psychological information about Smith was released in open court with his consent, as part of the defense strategy.  WOKV and Action News Jax continue to follow every development in this penalty phase. Stay with us for continuing coverage.

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