Doctor Says Killer’s Brain Not Abnormal

A neurologist Friday disputed claims that convicted killer Alan Brett Holland has an abnormal brain, a key contention of lawyers trying to spare him from the death penalty.

Even if a brain scan presented by defense attorneys last week was slightly unusual, that abnormality may have been caused by chronic, long-term drug use, testified prosecution witness Dr. Helen Mayberg, a neurology expert from the University of Texas.

“It is well-known fact that amphetamine-type drugs do damage to small blood vessels in the brain, and can cause chronic brain damage,” Mayberg said. “I don’t know if the brain goes totally back to normal.”

Mayberg’s testimony contradicts the testimony of two defense witnesses last week. One used an advanced brain imaging technique to show Holland’s brain is asymmetrical, and therefore abnormal. Another testified that he suffers from arrested development of the frontal lobes, possibly as a result of a poisoning accident at age 11.


Defense attorney Willard Wiksell is trying to show that brain damage to Holland as a child--caused by taking a bath with his dog in powerful flea dip--has impaired his judgment.

In December, a jury found that Holland killed 65-year-old Mildred Wilson in a Ventura shopping mall lot so he could steal her purse and car.

Now, in the penalty phase of the trial, jurors must decide whether Holland should live the rest of his life in prison or be executed.

Attorneys said they expect to make their final arguments next week.