Aug. 26—A Hamilton man’s comments after his arrest in a fatal shooting inside a Fairfield store prompted his attorney to ask a judge to order a forensic psychological evaluation to determine his competency to stand trial.
Last summer, statements at an early hearing by a Middletown mother accused of running over and killing her 6-year-old son and abusing his siblings caught the attention of her attorney and prompted him to also ask a judge to order an evaluation for its determination. fitness test.
Brittany Gosney, 29, and her boyfriend, James Hamilton, 43, were indicted in March on a 31-count combined indictment for murdering James Hutchinson on Feb. 26, 2021, in Preble County and dumping his body days later in the river Ohio.
Ultimately, Brittany Gosney was found competent based on a psychological report, and defense attorney David Washington withdrew a successive plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for Gosney. She pleaded guilty to murder and several other felonies and is now serving 21 years to life in prison.
A second competency evaluation has been ordered for Anthony Brown, who is charged with aggravated murder and other felonies in the May shootings inside Fairfield Twp. Walmart, after the first conclusion, Brown is competent to trial.
In some cases, the defense or prosecution may disagree with the first evaluation, and either side may request to request a second one. If these assessments differ, a third may be ordered by a judge before a decision is made.
Brown’s attorney, Clyde Bennett, said after conversations with Brown, “he did not appear to be mentally normal.”
“He couldn’t help me in my defense. He didn’t seem lucid. So his competency is an issue,” Bennett said after a court hearing. “When I sat down with him after the Walmart incident, he couldn’t help but defend himself. If you can’t tell me what happened and you don’t know what happened and it’s all a mystery and a fog to you, hell, how do I know that did you know what happened when it happened?’
Brown will be back in court next month for the outcome of the second assessment.
Last week, Washington was in court representing Justin Glenn, a Hamilton man accused of shooting and killing his brother last February in the backyard of their Summer Street home.
Again, Washington questioned his client’s competence after meeting Glenn. An assessment was carried out and, unlike Gosney’s case, a physio agreed and Glenn was ordered to undergo treatment to see if he could be restored to fitness.
“Competence to stand trial is about their ability to understand the process and help defend themselves,” Washington said. If a person is found incompetent, it is likely that they will be restored to competency with treatment and their case will then go to trial.
Many factors can render a defendant incompetent — intelligence level, drug use, mental illness, injury or, Washington said, “a combination of things.”
Washington said the finding of not guilty by reason of insanity is about the person’s state of mind when the crime was committed — “basically, they didn’t know the difference between right and wrong.”
“When you talk about competency, you’re talking about how (the defendant) is right now as opposed to NGRI (Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity), as they were when the incident occurred,” he said.
Competency evaluations and not guilty ratings by NGRI are ordered for a number of defendants in Butler County courts each year. Few result in NGRI or unauthorized findings, and legal definitions vary widely.
Butler County District Attorney Michael Gmoser said competency issues can come from the defense, prosecutors or a judge watching a defendant during the trial. It is important for all parties to make sure that the defendant understands the charges against the defendant and can assist with the defense.
But this is not the case with NGRI. The person can be rehabilitated to function mentally for trial with treatment, but if they have been found not guilty because they did not understand the wrongness of their actions when the crime was committed, there will be a decision by a judge in a courtroom and treatment will be ordered.
Two trials have been set for next month for the women accused of serious crimes.
Nancy Imfeld, 64, is charged with a felony in the alleged shooting death of her husband in May at their home in Monroe. Her attorney Jonathan Fox says Imfeld has a history of mental health issues, and Monroe officers had been called to Imfeld’s residence more than 140 times since 2011 for incidents related to his client’s mental health issues.
Imfeld was initially found incompetent, but was restored to competency for trial with treatment in a mental health facility. Fox then entered an insanity plea on her behalf, and the psychological evaluation appears to support the plea.
Imfeld will be in Butler County Common Pleas Court on Sept. 8 for a hearing to present evidence supporting NGRI’s claim, according to the defense and prosecution’s terms. Judge Keith Spaeth will make the final determination.
Monica Pennington, 52, is charged with murder in the November shooting death of her sister in Middletown. She was also declared incompetent to stand trial, but was rehabilitated with treatment. Her attorney, David Brewer, then entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on her behalf.
On Thursday, Pennington was in Spaeth’s courtroom where a bench trial was scheduled for Sept. 15. Again, it will be up to the judge to make the final decision.
Prosecutors and Brewer said Pennington and the victim, Pamela, were often involved in physical altercations. When Pennington was arrested, she had two black eyes that were visible in court. Part of Pennington’s psychological evaluation included battered women’s syndrome, and she has physical and mental disabilities, according to her attorney.
In either case, if there is an NGRI finding, Spaeth will order another evaluation to recommend treatment and care in the “less restrictive setting.”
Gmoser said NGRI is not a license for any crime because it comes with years of mental health treatment in an institution.
“No, they didn’t get away with murder because they didn’t commit a crime in the first place, as far as the law is concerned. Now as far as the perceptions of the general population … they’re always going to be branded a killer. They’re always going to be seen as someone who got away with it,” Gmoser said .
And in cases where warranted, objecting to an NGRI objection for the sake of winning a case is not the way to go.
“You can’t put a square peg in a round hole,” Gmoser said. “In some cases it’s very clear based on the psychologists. And I’m not questioning it for the sake of questioning it. I have to have confidence in the people doing the evaluation by someone who is a court appointee.”
Is it a delay tactic?
Gmoser said both competency motions and the NGRI in which the court must order an evaluation, which takes weeks to complete, can be used as a delay tactic by the defense.
“We’ve seen it over the years and I don’t think it’s ever going to go away,” Gmoser said.
Melynda Cook Howard, an attorney for a woman who found NGRI in the 2002 shooting death of a University of Miami professor, said the bar is high in an insanity case that must go to trial.
Tonda Lynn Ansley was found not guilty by reason of insanity for fatally shooting Sherry Lee Corbett, 55, her owner and employer, on July 27, 2002, a few blocks from Corbett’s home in Hamilton’s historic Dayton Lane neighborhood, where the two women.
“The law states that at the time of the offense the person was not aware as a result of serious mental deficiency or disease of the wrongfulness of the person’s act,” Cook Howard said. “And there has to be evidence to back it up.”
“For example, in the case of Tonda Ansley, the doctors who evaluated her all agreed that she was NGRI. She didn’t think it was wrong to kill ‘the teacher’, as she called her, because in her mind she believed they were doing harm and her child was therefore protecting them.”
Ansley is now on medication and has parole privileges from the treatment facility.
Ansley, like others, including Raymond Tanner, who was found NGRI after killing his wife on Valentine’s Day in 1990, is monitored by the court and hearings are held every two years.
After an argument at their Fairfield home, Tanner sawed off his wife’s head, put the head on their bed, then went to the police station in bloodstained clothes to confess to the murder.
Tanner, who psychologists say suffered from acute schizophrenia and had paranoid delusions that left him unable to tell right from wrong at the time of his wife’s death, was released from a mental health facility in 1996. He continues to undergo specific treatment provisions set by the court.