Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Expert: Boy, 9, Not Competent To Stand Trial


ST. JOHNS, Ariz. -- An expert who evaluated a 9-year-old boy charged in the deaths of his father and another man has determined the boy is incompetent to stand trial, the boy's lawyer said.

The expert nominated by the defense also said the boy could not be restored to competency within the time allowed by law, attorney Benjamin Brewer said this week. Age and intelligence are among the reasons that would keep the boy from understanding the two counts of premeditated murder he is facing, Brewer said. He declined to discuss the evaluation further.

An expert nominated by prosecutors conducted a separate evaluation of the boy on Dec. 22, but it isn't yet known what the conclusions were. The defense report wasn't made public, although it was briefly mentioned in a court document.

The boy's competency is at the core of the case. The issue likely will be discussed at a hearing on a motion Brewer filed to suppress a police interview with the boy or during a competency hearing that could take place in January.

"That will be the biggest decision that will be made, for sure," he said.

If a judge finds the boy is incompetent and unable to be restored to competency within 240 days, the case could be dropped with prejudice, meaning it could not be refiled. Prosecutors are worried the boy never will get the treatment he needs and the victims never will see justice if that determination is made.

If the boy is found fit to stand trial, Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael Roca will hear arguments in a bench trial that attorneys say could wrap up by midyear.

"Unless he's found incompetent with a chance of rehabilitation, I would think sometime March or April we'll either have a trial or a plea agreement," said prosecutor Brad Carlyon.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 6. The case has been on hold pending the results of the competency evaluations. Roca has said he believes it's inappropriate to rule on any substantive issues until the boy's competency is determined.

Police say the boy, who turned 9 on Dec. 29, used a .22-caliber rifle to shoot his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, and 39-year-old Timothy Romans as the two men returned home from work on Nov. 5. Romans was renting a room in the family's two-story home in St. Johns.

The case has turned the small town of St. Johns into a media circus, as Roca has called it. It's the most high-profile case heard in the courthouse that was built in 1917 and once housed the county jail.

During hearings in the case, dozens of people fill the gallery seats in a courtroom on the second floor. The row of seats are adorned with an "A" for Apache County, and each seat still has an original hat rack.

Roca presides over the case from a hand-carved solid oak bench that features the state seal. To his right is a hand-carved jury box that won't be filled with jurors in this case.

Brewer, who has advocated for the boy to be released from juvenile detention during the proceedings, said if the boy is found guilty or enters a plea, jail time should not be an option.
"We would want probation," he said. "We would want no kind of incarceration, and we would want any kind of counseling that would be necessary."

He's not convinced, though, that prosecutors have a strong case. Along with the police interview, defense attorneys also have asked Roca to suppress evidence gathered from the home that included a weapon, spent cartridges, blood samples, photographs and forensic material.
The attorneys claim the warrant is invalid because the magistrate who signed it had a relationship with Romero and the boy.

Brewer has questioned the validity of the so-called confession in which the boy admitted to firing at least two shots at each of the men. The boy wasn't read his rights and wasn't represented by an attorney or parent, and Brewer said officers lied to the boy, threatened him and implied promises of leniency to get him to confess.

"We're protecting his rights, and if the police violated those, we're going to call them to the mat," he said.

Brewer's motions and another by prosecutors to drop the murder charge stemming from Romero's death won't be ruled on if the boy is found incompetent.

Prosecutors have asked the state Court of Appeals to determine whether Roca can decline to rule on the motions. The court said it will consider the petition Jan. 13, which could delay the boy's case.

Expert: Boy, 9, Not Competent To Stand Trial - Phoenix News Story - KPHO Phoenix

Earlier postings -

8-Year-Old Boy Admits Killing His Dad in Video

Video Shows Arizona Boy Talking About Dad's Death

Gag Order in Case of Third Grader Charged With Killing Father, Co-Worker

Mourners Dispute Abuse Suspicions in Arizona Man Fatally Shot by Son, 8

Third Grader Due in Court to Face Murder Charges in Shooting Death of Dad, Friend

Neighbors Seek Answers After Boy, 8, Allegedly Shot Father, Another Man Boy, 8, Arrested in Death of Two Adults, Including Dad

8-Year-Old Shoots, Kills Father, Motive Undetermined Experts: Abuse is often cause when kids kill parents, but motive in Ariz. case remains unclear

Boy, 8, Charged With MurderPolice: St. Johns boy vowed 1000th spanking would be limit

Prosecutor seeks to drop charge against young murder suspectExperts: Interrogation of boy, 8, 'out of bounds'

Priest: Slain father taught boy to use guns

Child, 8, accused of killing father, another man

RAW: 8-year-old murder suspect's interview with police

Experts: Abuse is often cause when kids kill parents, but motive in Ariz. case remains unclear

Mother Baffled in Arizona MurdersPsychological tests sought for boy accused of slayings

Gag Order Issued In 8-Year-Old's Murder Trial

Prosecutors Say Boy Methodically Shot His FatherArizona police aim to put eight-year-old on trial as an adult for shooting deaths

8-Year Old Charged With Two Counts of First Degree MurderBoy, 8, Arrested in Death of Two Adults, Including Dad

Mom: Boy charged with killing father 'loved his dad' -

Attorneys see flaws in murder case against 8-year-old

Prosecutor seeks to drop charge against young murder suspect

Experts Doubt That 8-Year-Old’s Taped Confession in Double Killing Is Admissible -

Experts: Interrogation of boy, 8, 'out of bounds' Let boy go, Bloom says

The tape doesn't lie

Priest: Slain father taught boy to use guns

Child, 8, accused of killing father, another man

8-Year-Old Accused of Killing Father Offered Plea Deal

Zimbio Pilot - Vincent Romero

Mother Baffled in Arizona Murders

Psychological tests sought for boy accused of slayings

Gag Order Issued In 8-Year-Old's Murder Trial

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