By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A PSYCHOLOGIST claimed the depression Prince Hepburn experienced after learning his sweetheart was cheating on him caused a chemical imbalance in his brain that led him to attempt suicide and chop her to death.
Relying on 30 years of professional experience, research and his interviews with the 50-year-old accused contractor, Dr Michael Neville, who has his practice in the Bahamas, told a court that in his opinion Hepburn developed a depressive illness and his thinking on that day was “irrational”.
However, public prosecution deputy director Franklyn Williams put it to the psychologist that Hepburn’s actions, based on his testimony, seemed premeditated. Dr Neville disagreed.
It is claimed that on April 6 or 7, 2011, Hepburn caused the death of Nellie Mae Brown, the 42-year-old former president of the Bahamas Heart Association.
Hepburn and Brown-Cox were involved in an extramarital affair, though both had tried to divorce their spouses to be together.
Brown-Cox was found dead in the kitchen of an apartment on Bougainvillea Blvd, South Beach, with multiple stab wounds.
Hepburn, her partner at the time, was charged in connection with her death six days later when he was arraigned in the Magistrate’s Court.
Since his arraignment in the Supreme Court, Hepburn has denied the murder charge and in yesterday’s proceedings through his attorney Murrio Ducille, maintained that he could not accept responsibility for the crime because he was not in the right frame of mind.
Prior to the evidence of the psychologist, the prosecution, led by Mr Williams, had the DNA analyst give testimony in court through video conferencing.
Marissa Roe, a forensics analyst and manager of the Fairfax Identity Laboratory in Richmond, Virginia, told the court that Hepburn’s and Brown-Cox’s DNA were in the samples tested and there was no likelihood of anyone having the same profile in the Bahamas, in the US or in the world.
She admitted under cross-examination by Mr Ducille that there were other profiles on the samples found that did not belong to either the victim or accused in the case.
The prosecution then called Dr Deedric Bowe, the physician who treated Hepburn at the Princess Margaret Hospital on April 7, 2011.
Mr Williams asked the physician if he could say why Hepburn was referred to him.
“They referred him to me for attempted suicide,” Dr Bowe said, referring to the condition by its medical name – “para-suicide.”
“During your encounter with him, did you have a conversation?” the prosecutor asked.
“Yes, sir,” the physician answered, adding that the nature and purpose of the conversation was to get a detailed history of how his injuries came about.
“Mr Hepburn said he had just killed his girlfriend. He said he was dating her for five years and came into the relationship knowing she had someone in foreign…” Dr Bowe began before his testimony was interrupted by an objection from Mr Ducille.
Mr Ducille argued that this information was not mentioned in the prosecution’s notice to adduce additional evidence. Mr Williams countered that it had been summarized. He said the Crown was not obligated to produce in detail what the witness was going to say.
Justice Indra Charles agreed with the prosecution, but noted that the witness was expounding beyond his purpose for being in court.
Dr Bowe continued his evidence, claiming that Hepburn had informed him that he had seen with his own eyes, Nellie Brown-Cox meeting up with the man from away, and followed them for confirmation of the affair.
However, when put to his lover on numerous occasions, she denied the affair.
“The night of the incident, they were sitting down watching television and he asked her again about the affair and she said something that infuriated him,” Dr Bowe claimed in relaying his conversation with Hepburn.
Hepburn told him it was at this time that he got the cutlass and chopped her to death before also cutting himself.
“How did he know the deceased was dead?” the prosecutor asked.
“He said that ‘for the amount of chops that I gave her, no one could’ve lived after that,’” the physician answered.
Mr Ducille then cross-examined Dr Bowe. He asked the doctor if he had taken the Hippocratic oath about doctor-patient confidentiality.
“Yes, sir,” the physician replied.
Mr Ducille asked Dr Bowe to look at his notes. However, upon close scrutiny, Dr Bowe told the court that the notes he had in court with him were not his, but those of his intern on the day in question.
“Where are your notes?” Mr Ducille asked.
“I have a copy, but it’s not here,” Dr Bowe replied. He said it was in his hotel room.
The doctor’s response led Mr Ducille to claim that the prosecution was in breach of Section 166 of the Criminal Procedure Code. As a result the jury was excused for the lunch break while the legal issues were discussed in their absence.
In the afternoon session of court, Mr Ducille asked the physician if the report he had prepared contained anything about what he had told the court.
“Not in my writing,” Dr Bowe replied.
“Have you given medical evidence of findings or prognosis?” Mr Ducille asked. The physician said no, but at the end of his report he had made a note for a follow-up physician to query acute kidney injury, para-suicide and a temporary psychosis.
Following this testimony, the prosecution closed its case and Justice Charles called on Hepburn to open his defence.
Hepburn exercised his right to remain silent and called, instead, Dr Neville as a defence witness after Mr Ducille had addressed the jury and said that Nellie’s affair with another man had led to Hepburn reacting out of character and so could not be held responsible for murder because of the elements that the law requires the prosecution to prove.
After stating his medical experience, which was not disputed by the Crown, Dr Neville talked about his interview with Hepburn in September 2011.
“I spent a lot of time with him trying to understand what happened on that particular day,” Dr Neville told Mr Ducille in reply to his questions.
“From what he described to me, this was the first time he had been involved in any major incident in his life,” the doctor added.
Dr Neville then went into detail about what Hepburn had told him, including Hepburn and Brown-Cox’s plan to marry after divorcing their respective spouses.
Hepburn found out she was having an affair, which reportedly made him feel worthless, hopeless and wanting to take his own life.
“He described buying a cutlass, though he already had one. As the day went on, he felt the only solution was for both of them to die. In my opinion, he developed a depressive illness and his thinking on that day was irrational,” Dr Neville said.
Mr Ducille asked Dr Neville to continue his testimony. The doctor said that when Brown-Cox came home, Hepburn brought up the affair. She made light of it and Hepburn flew into a rage.
“He remembers chopping her up and then took an overdose of pills, bleach, alcohol and chopped himself.”
Dr Neville noted that from his experience, uncharacteristic feelings of unhappiness, weakness, sadness, can cause a depressive episode that can lead to chemicals passing messages around the brain “causing chemical imbalance in which the brain causes a lot of symptoms, including irrational thinking.”
He said other factors include genetic susceptibility and hormonal imbalances.
In cross-examination, Mr Williams asked the psychologist if his limited visits months after the murder could give him adequate information to form an evaluation. Dr Neville said it could.
“He said to you certain things that you yourself have no objective evidence if anything other than what he said to you?” Mr Williams suggested.
“That’s correct,” Dr Neville replied.
“You said he bought a cutlass?” the prosecutor asked. “That’s correct,” said Dr Neville.
“He totally gave up and only thought of killing himself?” the prosecutor asked.
“Correct,” said Dr Neville.
“Now, via a cutlass and killing somebody, would you say that indicates premeditation or intention?” the prosecutor asked.
Dr Neville said it could indicate intention, but he maintained that Hepburn, because of his feelings, was thinking irrationally. He added that it was not unusual for someone depressed and contemplating suicide, to go and take the life of someone else.
“Is it possible that the alleged attempt at suicide was a part of his plan to get away with it?” Mr Williams asked.
“It is possible, but not in my opinion,” the witness answered.
“Your opinion is based on what he told you?” the prosecutor asked. Dr Neville answered that his opinion was also based on his 30 years of experience.
The jury asked the doctor if Hepburn was aware of his actions during the depressive state.
“I think he was aware of what he was doing and that it was wrong. But I’m not sure he was aware of the consequences,” Dr Neville replied.