BATON ROUGE, La. – A jury took just over 90 minutes Thursday night to decide on the death penalty for twice-convicted killer and suspected serial slayer Derrick Todd Lee (search), apparently rejecting defense claims that he is mentally retarded.
As he was being taken from the courtroom, Lee shouted, "God don't sleep," and "They don't wanna tell them about the DNA they took eight times."
His relatives shouted "I love you," while members of his victim's family gasped and then cried and hugged one another.
Jurors earlier in the day heard conflicting testimony from defense and prosecution witnesses on Lee's mental condition. A 2002 Supreme Court decision forbids the execution of the mentally retarded.
Lee, 35, has been linked by DNA evidence (search) to the deaths of seven women from 1998 to 2003. The same jury that convicted him Tuesday of first-degree murder in the stabbing and beating death of 22-year-old Charlotte Murray Pace (search) of Baton Rouge decided Thursday night that he should die.
In closing arguments, prosecutor John Sinquefield urged the jury to give Lee the death penalty, saying he was a "serial killer trying to hide behind a claim of mental retardation to escape the punishment he so richly deserves."
Lee's attorney pleaded for his client's life.
"I don't know what kind of evil must have descended upon that man to produce what you saw in those pictures. I do not understand that evil. I do not fathom that evil. But that evil is not defeated by sticking a needle in an arm," attorney Bruce Unangst said.
Lee already faces a life sentence for his August conviction in the slaying of Geralyn DeSoto (search) in West Baton Rouge Parish.
Drew Gouvier, a Louisiana State University psychology professor, testified for the defense during the penalty phase.
"All of the requirements for mental retardation are met for Mr. Lee, pretty much without question," he said.
Gouvier said Lee scored 65 on an IQ test, below the 70 deemed the threshold for mental retardation. That test — combined with his problems understanding language, coping with situations and making plans — showed Lee is mildly retarded, Gouvier said.
Sarah Deland, a Tulane University psychiatrist, agreed that Lee is retarded. She said Lee told her he paid someone to take the test for his commercial truck driver's license and failed the renewal test when he had to take it himself.
But after Deland also said Lee couldn't meet the qualifications to become a pipefitter, prosecutors brought in two men who said Lee worked for a construction company in that capacity.
Gary Robillard, Lee's former supervisor, said Lee was a good pipefitter who could read blueprints and worked his way up on the job.
Prosecutors also called a psychiatrist, Robert Blanche, and a psychologist, Donald Hoppe.
"Once you look at the entire picture, it's very clear this man is not mentally retarded," Hoppe said.
Hoppe said the IQ test Gouvier used gives a range of scores that shows Lee's IQ could be anywhere from 62 to 70, and he said a person's IQ score might change from day to day.