Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper

The Verdict

Claudia's testimony had given the jury much to consider.  Was Danny Rolling's childhood trauma enough to absolve him of full responsibility for his later actions?  Their dilemma was not helped much by the testimony of three psychiatrists.  All agreed that, as a result of his father's abuse and his mother's failure to protect him from it, Danny Rolling had a severe personality disorder and functioned at the maturity level of a fifteen-year-old, but, under cross-examination conceded that he did not suffer from multiple-personalities and was aware of the criminality of his actions during and after the murders.  It would take the jury almost two days to resolve these issues and make a determination.  The jury had decided that Danny Rolling should receive the death penalty on all five counts.

It was now up to the judge to review the aggravating and mitigating factors and make an independent judgment, taking the jury's recommendation fully into account.  He would announce his final judgment on April 20, 1994 after giving all parties concerned, the victims' families, Rolling's family and Danny Rolling himself, an opportunity to state their case to him personally.

In the meantime on March 30 the Shreveport Police cited James Rolling for the "simple battery" of his wife during a domestic dispute.  On the same day, Rolling confessed to the triple murder of the Grissom family in Shreveport.

The day of sentencing finally arrived, three and a half years after the murders were committed.  Judge Morris, aware that any grounds for appealing the sentence could come from what he said, measured his words carefully.  One by one he reviewed all of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances that had been presented during the trial.  He noted all aspects of Rolling's history and the findings of all of the doctors, disputing none.  He agreed that Rolling functioned at a considerably immature level and that his personality disorder did impair his ability to conform to the requirements of the law, but, it was not at a level which could be considered by the law as being substantial.  He found that Rolling's disorder was a non-statutory mitigating factor and gave it only moderate weight.  Judge Morris found, as did the jury, that the aggravating factors far outweighed the mitigating and ordered that Danny Harold Rolling be sentenced to death for all five victims.

Florida State Prison
Florida State Prison

Rolling was sent to the state prison in Starke, where he would be on death row until the customary appeal process was exhausted, and then he would be executed.


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