State of IL v. Aubrey D. Tucker, Jr.

Case #05 CF 19
Lawrence County, Illinois

Defense Attorneys:
David M. Williams, Esq.
Fairfield, IL 62837
ph. 618 842 9171

Matt Vaughn, Esq.
Fairfield, IL 62837
ph.  618 842 9266

Defense Expert:
Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D.
Associate Clinical Professor
Co-founder, Program in Psychiatry and the Law
Department of Psychiatry
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Harvard Medical School
96 Larchwood Drive
Cambridge, MA 02138
ph. 617-492-8366


Defendant Tucker was charged with first-degree murder in the shotgun slaying of 34-month-old Gertrude Bilskie Crump of Lawrenceville, Illinois on February 8, 2005.  He also wounded the girl’s aunt, Trinka Crump, and her grandparents, Rebecca and Michael Allen.  Tucker faced the death penalty if convicted.  In Illinois a jury must agree unanimously to a death sentence; otherwise, a sentence of life-imprisonment is imposed.

Forensic psychiatrist Harold J. Bursztajn of Harvard Medical School testified in three phases of the legal proceedings.  The first phase was a suppression hearing in which the defense alleged that Tucker’s confession the day after the shootings had been involuntary and coerced.  The confession was found to be admissible.  However, Dr. Bursztajn was allowed to testify subsequently at the sentencing mitigation hearing regarding the unreliability of the confession.

Second, as part of the guilt/innocence phase of the proceedings, Dr. Bursztajn made an offer of proof that had the indicated neurophysiological testing been performed to rule out the possibility of a seizure disorder, Dr. Bursztajn could have testified regarding the defendant’s capacity to form specific intent. He might also have been able to offer evidence related to other forms of diminished capacity in support of a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI).

Finally, after the defendant was convicted in the guilt phase of the trial, Dr. Bursztajn testified in the sentencing phase that, based on available data, three out of five potential mitigating factors were present.  These included chronic alcoholism and malnutrition with consequent brain damage, repeated head trauma as a child in the context of ongoing abuse at the hands of Tucker’s father, and lingering neuropsychiatric effects consequent to a serious childhood neurological illness.  Tragically, in spite of an evident neuropsychiatric disorder at the time of Tucker’s imprisonment for manslaughter in the killing of his father in Kentucky in 1993, Tucker apparently had received no mental health treatment while incarcerated.  Within a month of his discharge in 2002 he began drinking 30 beers a day with little food intake while sleeping only one to two hours per night. 

In the mitigation phase Dr. Bursztajn also had an opportunity to comment on the police interrogation techniques employed after Tucker’s arrest in 2005, which included repeated physical contact with an obviously disoriented and partially deaf defendant.  These police interrogation techniques, Dr. Bursztajn testified, created a coercive atmosphere in which the defendant was willing to accept suggestions from the police as a means of terminating, as quickly as possible, a physically and emotionally tortuous interrogation.

At the mitigation hearing the jury found that sufficient mitigating factors were present to preclude a death-penalty verdict.

There are at least two potential grounds for appeal of the guilty verdict.  The first is the admission of the allegedly coerced and potentially prejudicial confession.  The second is the failure to permit critical neurophysiological testing of the defendant to allow for assistance to counsel at trial with respect to a diminished-capacity defense.