Is James Colley responsible for his actions on day of murders?

State seeking death for St. Johns County man who gunned down 2 women

By Francine Frazier - Senior web producer, Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - James Colley Jr.'s defense team continued its efforts Tuesday to convince at least some of the jurors who convicted Colley of murder that the 38-year-old's life should be spared.

Colley was found guilty Wednesday of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two burglary counts and a count of aggravated stalking. A jury will decide this week whether to recommend Colley be put to death for the murders.

Several experts have testified for the defense that Colley was so heavily medicated around the time of the murders that he might not have been fully responsible for his actions when he gunned down his estranged wife, Amanda Colley, and her best friend, Lindy Dobbins, in 2015.

Dr. Mark Mills said Monday that because Colley took Ambien the morning of the murders with only a few hours to sleep, it's possible he had a parasomniac episode, which is similar to sleepwalking in the sense that the person seems rational or OK but when you ask them later, they have no memory of the incident.

RELATED: Loved ones describe impact of murders | 
WATCH: Emotional victim impact statements

Another defense expert testified Tuesday to the effect sleep medication might have had on Colley's state of mind the day of the murders.

Dr. Daniel Buffington, a clinical pharmacologist who also testified for the defense in Donald Smith's penalty phase this year, said the painkillers, anti-depressants, sleep aids and other medications Colley was taking could have given him a “snapshot” memory of what happened the day of the St. Johns County shooting rampage.

Buffington said Colley told him that he remembers strolling through the home he once shared with Amanda Colley and firing a gun, but he doesn’t remember pointing the gun at anyone. 

As they did Monday with Mills, prosecutors again pointed out that Buffington's only evidence that Colley was taking the medication and that it affected him was what Colley himself reported in an interview.

Dr. Jeffrey Danziger, a psychiatrist who testified for the state Tuesday, refuted the findings of the defense's medical experts. Danziger said Colley's coherence during his injunction hearing the morning of the murders and his decision to run after the shootings show he was lucid and not impaired by any medications.

Judge Charles Tinlin, who presided over Colley's injunction hearing that day, also testified that Colley's demeanor did not indicate he was under the influence of anything at the time.

Prosecutors played the video and audio of the injunction hearing for the jurors, showing Colley answering and asking questions about the probation he was being sentenced to and acknowledging that he would have not violent contact with Amanda Colley.

He killed her and Dobbins less than two hours later.

Amanda Colley and Lindy Dobbins

Danziger also testified that despite what Colley now says about having vague, spotty memories of that deadly rampage, Colley recounted the events without issue to a doctor several months after the murders.

One of the state's witnesses, a medical expert, isn't available until Wednesday. The jury could begin deliberating Colley's sentence by late Wednesday afternoon, following closing arguments and jury instructions.

Florida law says a death penalty recommendation must be unanimous. If it's not, Colley will be sentenced to life without parole. If the jurors recommend death, Circuit Judge Howard Maltz will make the ultimate decision, likely at a later date.

Sister testifies

Crystal Colley Wright testifying Tuesday in the sentencing hearing for her brother.

Colley has declined to testify in his own defense, but his sister painted a picture Tuesday of his history, personality and character, choking up on the stand as she described what Colley was like as a father.

“He taught them how to swim. He taught them how to tie their shoes. He taught them how to ride their bikes,” Crystal Colley Wright said. “He did everything for those children. He was a wonderful father.”

Colley cried as the defense showed pictures of his children that were taken in the days and weeks before the murders.

Wright also testified that as a child, about 9 years old, Colley saw their mother hit their father several times with a baseball bat after learning that their father was having an affair. She said it was the week of Thanksgiving, and her mother returned to the home on Thanksgiving Day and threatened their father with a knife when he wouldn't let her in the house. She said James Colley also witnessed that incident.

Wright said her parents later reconciled and have been married for 49 years. Prosecutors called her testimony into question, saying in a previous sworn deposition, Wright said she'd never seen violence between her parents.

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.