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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Competency of defendant in doubt

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Lewisburg man's future hung in the balance last week as a judge tried to determine if the accused sex offender is competent to stand trial.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler listened to testimony from licensed psychologist Dr. Donna Moore who had evaluated Jeffery D. LeMay, 44, and conducted seven sessions of "competency training" for him.

LeMay was arrested in August 2007, charged with a total of 20 counts of aggravated statutory rape and sexual battery. He is free on a $75,000 bond, and defense attorney Melissa Thomas requested a competency evaluation in December 2007. Crigler issued the order in March 2008, and the sessions with Moore took place later that spring.

"Looking at the data," Moore told the court, "I thought 'mental retardation' was accurate for him. It looked like his scores supported a mental retardation diagnosis."

Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard emphasized the fact that LeMay had held a job at ICP until the plant closed, and also worked as the manager of a trailer park.

"Competence to stand trial is a different set of skills," explained Moore, stating that she felt LeMay "was having trouble retaining and processing" the information she tried to teach him about court procedures. She said he never understood the meaning of "plaintiff," or "defendant," and didn't understand what witnesses are.

"He had to be prompted to try his best," she added.

"That," Barnard said, "causes me to wonder if he wasn't attempting to malinger."

Moore conceded, "He could have been."

Barnard also asked, "In seven hours you determined the defendant could not be trained to be competent?"

"Yes," Moore replied, "probably not ever. He can successfully remember and complete tasks, but that's different from the ability to retain ideas and concepts."

She said that LeMay did know that the charges against him were serious, but also told her, "'I didn't do it - it's all a lie.'"

Moore concluded by telling the court, "I don't recall anyone in his [IQ] range that I said was competent (to stand trial)."

Barnard called on LeMay's estranged wife, Heather, to testify.

She told the court that she had known him for nine years, and they had been married since 2001. They separated when LeMay was arrested in 2007. The divorce isn't final.

"Were you aware he was in special education in school?" Barnard asked in the following exchange with Heather.

"No."

"Did anything about him indicate to you he was retarded?"

"No."

Barnard questioned Heather about all the everyday tasks LeMay could do, and established that he could write checks and use a credit card. According to Heather, when LeMay worked as manager of the Embers East trailer park he read the water meters every month, calculated the gallons used, and prepared the residents' bills. He was accustomed to testing and correcting water in the fish tanks owned by the couple, and the whole family would call on him to hook up electronics such as TVs and VCRs.

"Could he read?" Barnard asked.

"I thought he could," Heather answered.

"Tell time?"

"Yes."

"Keep records?"

"Yes. What he could handle he handled."

Moore was recalled to the stand, and asked by defense attorney Thomas if hearing the wife's testimony had changed her mind.

"No," answered the expert. "It was more information. But the tasks he could do are not related to his ability to understand a legal proceeding."

"Does he have the ability to sit at trial?" asked Thomas.

"I believe he does not," replied Moore.

"By a preponderance of expert testimony, my client is not competent to stand trial," declared Thomas.

"This is taking a track I'm totally unused to," the judge said at the end of the all-day hearing.

"It's a road we haven't traveled in this county before," agreed Barnard. "At the minimum the state asks for another evaluation, preferably as an in-patient."

"We need a second opinion," Crigler said. "Perhaps the court could order an in-patient assessment. I'll take it under advisement."

The judge agreed with prosecution and defense counsel to consider LeMay's competency again in 30 days.