JUSTIN’S ATTORNEY, Robert Willis, gamely offered alternative interpretations for each scrap of evidence. But Justin’s behaviour in a different courtroom three years earlier may ultimately have swayed the jury.
Midway through the first-degree premeditated murder trial, prosecutors played a video deposition Justin gave in 2003 as part of a civil case concerning insurance proceeds. On the tape, the plaintiffs’ attorney grills Justin on the attack, his affairs, his sex life with April. He claims not to remember some key details but answers even the most disturbing questions with uncanny calm. His mouth is set in a downward curve, and he dabs his eyes once. Otherwise, he shows little emotion. When the lawyer asks him to recall the high points of his marriage, Justin says tersely, “We were in love.” Pressed for details, he says, “I don’t recall specifically.”
He seemed equally unmoved when the jurors of the criminal trial, after 33 hours of deliberation, announced their verdict: guilty. His supporters wept, as did April’s mourners. Justin barely blinked, even when the jury recommended the death penalty a week later. (Judge Edward Hedstrom later sentenced him to life without parole.) Such detachment is a classic symptom of sociopathy, says University of Texas psychologist Shari Julian, an expert on the disorder.
“The true mark of a sociopath is that he always wears a mask,” Julian says. They tend to be intelligent, charismatic, and monstrously manipulative.
“He’s a very gentle person,” says Justin’s mother, Linda, who still believes in his innocence. “A good guy.”
But Amber Mitchell rejoices that the mask is off at last. “This has been a long, horrible chapter in our lives,” she says. “I want the jury to know they got it right.”
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