Howard Steven Ault's Claims That an Abnormal Brain Caused Him to Kill Rejected by High Court
Howard Steven Ault has an abnormal brain. Defects in areas that process memories and emotions make him incapable of taking in data the way most people do -- common problems among fellow pedophiles. And so, his attorneys have argued for years now, he shouldn't
be put to death for killing two Oakland Park girls in 1996 and stuffing their bodies in his attic.
But in this decision issued on Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court rejected that argument and confirmed Ault will remain on death row for killing 11-year-old DeAnn and her 7-year-old sister, Alicia.
Ault killed the girls after offering them a ride home from school. He raped DeAnn, killed her, and then smoked a cigarette before killing the only witness, Alicia.
For the horrific crimes, a jury originally sentenced Ault to death, but that sentence was overturned
in 2003 on appeal. Broward County Circuit Judge Marc Gold gave him the death penalty again after a trial three years ago.
In its ruling on Friday, the Florida Supreme Court said Gold should have considered his brain defects as a mitigating factor in his sentencing. Gold also should have considered other factors, including that Ault had a low IQ and that he had admitted to the crimes and shown remorse.
But the state's high court ruled that those are "harmless" errors and aren't enough to overturn the sentence. "In light of the extensive aggravating circumstances in this case," the court wrote in its decision, "we find that any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt."
Not all the judges agreed. Justice Peggy A. Quince wrote in her dissent that Gold "gave short shrift to many of the defendant's proposed mitigating circumstances and failed to evaluate or discuss others."
Because of Friday's ruling, Ault will remain on death row in the maximum-security section of Union Correctional Institution, no matter if his abnormal brain makes him a pedophile or not.
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