Testimony indicates Isom overcame life's deficits

2013-02-07T17:23:00Z 2013-02-08T11:25:04Z Testimony indicates Isom overcame life's deficitsSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
February 07, 2013 5:23 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Kevin Isom, now a convicted murderer facing a possible death penalty, has no major prior criminal history, graduated from high school against the odds and held a steady job as a security guard for some 15 years.

That's despite risk factors in his family background and impaired brain function as testified to Thursday by a forensic psychologist and a neuropsychologist Thursday.

And another veteran expert in the corrections field testified he'd have a lot more hair on his head and less need for blood pressure medication if he saw more inmates like the one Isom is expected to be.

The expert witnesses were part of the defense team's efforts to show Isom merits a lesser sentence than death.

Isom, 47, was convicted Tuesday of murdering his wife, Cassandra, and his teenage stepchildren, Michael Moore and Ci'Andria Cole, on Aug. 6, 2007, in the family's Miller apartment in Gary.

Jurors also found Isom guilty of three counts of criminal recklessness for shooting at responding officers during a subsequent standoff with police.

Jurors have entered the sentencing phase of Isom's five-week trial. Regarding only the murder convictions, jurors are charged with sentencing Isom to death, life without parole or a set number of years in prison to be imposed by the presiding judge.

During this sentencing phase, the jury must consider whether "mitigating" factors such as age, character, education and environment outweigh the "aggravating" factor of the crime involving multiple deaths.

The state must prove the aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt, while the mitigating factors can be proven by the lesser standard of preponderance of the evidence.

Jurors must then decide if one outweighs the other.

On Wednesday, family members testified to Isom as being a well-loved member of a large, close-knit extended family, a steady provider and protector of a matriarchal family, headed by the grandmother with whom his single mother lived.

Though his mother had numerous siblings, Isom is Lula Isom's only child. Cousins testified Isom had no relationship with his father or other males.

"There was no male role model for this young man at all as far as I can tell," forensic and clinical psychologist James Eisenberg testified Thursday.

Eisenberg testified none of the corrupting influences he found in Isom's life appeared to have much impact.

"They didn't manifest themselves until this happened," Eisenberg told jurors.

Clinical neuropsychologist Michael Gelbort testified Isom appeared to function despite some serious brain impairments. Those included some lack of focus and concentration and difficulty in retaining information for long periods of time.

Finally, a veteran nationally known correctional expert, James Aiken, said Isom had no prior record of incarceration in Indiana, no history of disruptive behavior and no signs of predatory behavior.

The sentencing phase continues Friday, when the jury is expected to begin deliberating.

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