Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Capital Murder Defendant Deemed Incompetent

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Paul Devoe, who is facing capital murder charges, has been deemed incompetent to stand trial (January 13, 2009). Competency relates to a defendant’s mental state at the time of trial, not at the time of the alleged crime.

According to Chapter 46B, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure: Article 46B.003. Incompetency; Presumptions:

(a) A person is incompetent to stand trial if the person does not have:

1. sufficient present ability to consult with the person’s lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; or

2. a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against the person.

(b) A defendant is presumed competent to stand trial and shall be found competent to stand trial unless proved incompetent by a preponderance of the evidence.

Here's the article from the Statesman:

"Paul Devoe, accused of killing five people in Texas and a woman in Pennsylvania in 2007, has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Two doctors, one hired by the prosecution and another by the defense, declared Devoe incompetent to assist in his defense. The order was signed by Judge Brenda Kennedy on Dec. 22, Travis County Assistant District Attorney Dayna Blazey said Monday. She said that doctors expect Devoe to recover from his current state with care and medication and that she expects him to eventually stand trial.

Devoe, 45, is accused of killing a Marble Falls bartender, four people in a Jonestown house and a woman in Pennsylvania during August 2007 before being arrested in Shirley, N.Y.

'This has nothing to do with his state when he committed the offense,' Blazey said. 'All it has to do with is right now; he is unable to understand the charges against him or unable to cooperate with his attorneys.'

Devoe's mental condition deteriorated while he was in custody, Blazey said. The state's psychiatric report states that he is unable to communicate with his lawyers, she said. He will be sent to Vernon State Hospital, a maximum security psychiatric facility in North Texas, until he is able to stand trial again, Blazey said. Travis County records indicate Devoe is in custody at the county correctional center in Del Valle.

Prosecutors said they were not aware of why the December decision was not disclosed until Monday.

Blazey said Devoe's trial was tentatively scheduled to begin in March. She expects him to recover in about two or three months, after which he would go to trial and prosecutors would seek the death penalty.

'We believe the evidence supports a conviction for capital murder,' Blazey said.

One of Devoe's attorneys, Tom Weber, declined to comment on the decision.

Jonathon Griffith, the son of murder victim Paula Griffith, 46, and brother of victim Haylie Marie Faulkner, 15, said he was not pleased with the declaration of incompetence.

'I think he's trying to game the system,' Griffith said. 'I personally think he's doing this on purpose. I'm sure he's been given medications, and he's not taking them.'

Griffith said he hopes Devoe will become lucid and stand trial 'sooner rather than later.'

Kennedy ruled in July that most of the potentially incriminating statements that Devoe made will be admissible at trial. Devoe's lawyers sought to suppress a series of statements that witnesses say he made about the crimes, including telling a cellmate, 'I killed six people,' and telling his sister that he shot people. According to court testimony, he also asked a Suffolk County, N.Y., police officer, 'Do you know how many bodies they found?'

In 2007, Devoe told the Long Island newspaper Newsday that he doesn't remember shooting five of the six victims and that he 'never meant to hurt anybody in any shape or form.'

But while in jail in Suffolk County, he said he was haunted by their deaths.

'All I hear is screams,' Devoe told the paper."
The article is available here.

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