Managing Editor's Note: I have no idea what to think of this story. Is William Page formally diagnosed as autistic? Does he have Asperger's Syndrome? Is every criminal who seems odd or remote going to be called "autistic." Autism has been in a lot of very disturbing stories this week. Two mothers killed their sons. The college shooter in Alabama has a whiff of Asperger's floating around her descriptions. Will a perception of danger or criminality harm our loved ones with autism? It's a far cry from crowing about the gifts, that's for sure. But I simply do not know what to make of it. Do you?
From Pittsburgh Live: Autism diagnosis may take death off table for Braddock man
An Allegheny County judge is scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against a Braddock man accused of abandoning his 23-month-old daughter to die in freezing temperatures.
A psychologist testified Friday that defendant William Page is autistic, a condition his lawyer argued precludes death as a possible punishment if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
"These are not the type of people to whom the death penalty should be applied," defense attorney Richard Narvin said. "Do we (execute) people who (start out) behind the rest of us? This is a developmental disorder."
The U.S. Supreme Court has barred imposing the death penalty in cases involving the mentally disabled and juveniles.
Experts said the courts have not ruled whether autism is included in that protected group.
"If the court rules against the defense, certainly they can still present (the autism) as a mitigating factor, should it reach the penalty phase. It's something the jury can weigh," said Duquesne University law professor Bruce Antkowiak, who is not connected to the case. "And if the court rules against (the defense), it's preserved for appeal."
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