Monday, June 30, 2008

Capital Murder Defendant Found Competent After Fourth Hearing

The San Antonio Express-News reports that the case of Vincent Seard, who has been found incompetent to stand trial as a result of his severe mental illness on three prior occasions, is now ready to proceed ("Slayings suspect ruled OK for trial," June 17, 2008). Serious questions about his mental status remain, however. Seard faces a possible death sentence for the 2003 murders of Terry Ingram and Patricia Kutzer.

Here's the article in full:

"At the fourth competency hearing since he was charged with capital murder in the 2003 beating deaths of two Kerr County residents, Vincent Seard was found mentally fit for trial Tuesday.

But testimony at the three-hour hearing before state District Judge Steve Ables showed schizophrenia and delusional thinking remain issues for the accused, who says he embodies all that is evil and good, looks to numerology to bolster his defense and calls himself 'Vincent Seard Jeffrey, period.'

Ables' ruling that Seard was competent provided little comfort to Cynthia Ingram, whose husband, Terry, and their friend, Patricia Kutzer, were brutally bludgeoned at Kutzer's farm outside Comfort on March 10, 2003.

'It's still going to be forever,' Ingram predicted after watching the hearing. 'It's going to go on and on. I don't think it's going to end.'

Seard, who was arrested in California four days after the killings, is unlikely to face trial before 2009, said District Attorney Bruce Curry.

The defense has previously said an electrical shock Seard suffered may have led to the Houston-area musician's bizarre behavior, including the unprovoked attack at the farm just off Interstate 10.

Defense lawyer Kurt Rudkin put little stock in expert medical testimony that Seard, 44, can meaningfully assist his defense and understands the charges and court proceedings, including the possibility of being sentenced to death.

He said much of his consultation with Seard during five years as his court-appointed counsel has concerned which spirits share his body and how various number patterns may factor into his defense.
Taking the stand Tuesday, Seard spoke slowly and clearly — but often in cryptic terms — about defense strategies, the reasons he left incriminating evidence at the crime scene, and 'Oren,' an 'entity from the sea' that shares his being.

'With clarity now, being as I am whoever I say I am, balancing in the ying and yang ... even to now I am Oren,' he said.

Asked about leaving his dog, photos of himself and his driver's license at Kutzer's home, Seard said, 'The reason was, as was left many articles, I then left evidence to see that whoever was guilty of the crime, charge me with it.'

Rudkin told Ables he heard little evidence Tuesday that differed from a 2006 hearing, the third and last one in which Seard was ruled incompetent.

Curry said Tuesday's hearing was the first in which experts agreed Seard was competent.
Seard's condition has improved because of drugs, but he may relapse into 'frenzies' — as has occurred before — if he halts his medication, testified psychiatrist Richard Coons.

Based on a three-hour interview last week, Coons said he concluded Seard's illness may affect his ability to consult with an attorney 'but not enough to make him incompetent.'

Dr. Michael Jumes, director of psychology at Kerrville State Hospital, said he examined Seard four times, most recently April 2, at North Texas Mental Hospital in Vernon.

'He displayed a factual and rational understanding across the range of questions I posed to him,' Jumes testified.

Questioned by Rudkin whether he thought Coons and Jumes were forthright in their assessments, Seard said, 'Who is to say what is normal?'

Seard's sister, Diane Stills of Houston, hardly recognized the defendant as her loving sibling of bygone days. 'He's not the Vincent I grew up with,' she said. 'Let's put it that way.'

Note: Judge Ables also presided over the capital murder trial of Scott Panetti and allowed him to represent himself.


Anonymous said...

Vincent Seard was sane enough to take Terry Ingram's credit cards and use them for gas to get to California.
Terry Ingram's son found his dad dead, laying on the dirt in the driveway, with a butcher knife sticking out of his father's chest.

Vincent Seard needs to be put to death. There is no reason in the world for him not to be executed.

Kristin Houle said...

While I'm sure that Vincent Seard's mental status at the time of this tragic and senseless crime will be a key issue at his trial, this latest ruling does not address whether he was sane. Rather, the courts have been examining Seard's current mental status and whether he is competent to stand trial... Does he have sufficient present ability to consult with his attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding? Does he possess a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him? After four competency hearings, experts now have determined that Seard is fit to proceed; his condition has stabilized as a result of medications.

Yet according to this article, Seard remains a severely mentally ill man whose delusions might prevent him from fully participating in his own trial. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute someone who does not understand the reason for - or the reality -- of his/her punishment. If Vincent Seard fits that criteria, then there is every reason in the world that he should not be executed... or sentenced to death in the first place.


Anonymous said...

It should be constitutional to execute a murderer, regardless of their mental state.

Why do you think people are executed in the first place? The answer is because they are a threat to society and need to be eliminated.

It is a form of prevention of further harm to society. A permanent one.

If you imprison a murderer for life or release them into society via not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity instead of executing them like you should, there is a chance that they could cause further harm to society such as killing a prison guard, prisoner, or a civilian if they are released back into society.

You may not like the idea of execution in this manner, but it saves lives.