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A Case Done to Death

After the defense objected that Spitz hadn't made that observation to them, Mullins ruled that the jury should disregard the statement.

Dr. Karen Fukutaki was the prosecution's next witness. During opening arguments, prosecutor Sheila Rappaport's mere mention of the psychiatrist prompted an objection; on Tuesday morning, the defense's arguments against her appearance were so numerous that Mullins finally surrendered and sent the jurors, who'd never even made it into the box, off on a lengthy lunch break. The prosecution had asked Fukutaki to assess Morris's mental state; for her report, she had access to his military records, his school records, his medical records, the letters he wrote a woman he married after going to jail. She's researched his conversations with a jailhouse snitch, who says Morris told him he killed Ashley, told him that "there was something about her underclothes...and that he just had to see what it was like."

Fukutaki concluded that Morris was sane at the time Ashley Gray was killed. And his sanity is the only real question left to be answered in this courtroom. Whether Morris was in his right mind when Ashley died, whether he was mentally capable of knowing he committed murder, is literally the difference between a life sentence and death.

How much Fukutaki will be able to say in court, though, is up to the lawyers and the judge. The motions pile up and the record piles up, and even if the jury finds Morris guilty, even if the three-judge panel then sentences him to death, that final punishment will be many years and appeals away. "It becomes all about the suspect," says Richard Berrelez, "and the victim is totally, totally forgotten."

The wheels of justice turn so slowly that this doesn't seem like any kind of justice at all. Morris, a confessed killer, could have been put away for good months ago; instead, his case may stretch far longer than the life of JonBenet Ramsey or Alie Berrelez.

Or that of his victim, Ashley Gray, whose life ended just shy of six years, with the outline of a heart etched in the skin above her cold, still heart.

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