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Mental Competency Challenged in Pasco Murder Case

Last month, we wrote here about a Dade City man accused of stabbing a social worker to death in his apartment and pondered whether there would be a challenge to his mental competency. Our suppositions have turned out to be accurate as media reported today that Lucious Edward Smith will, in fact, undergo evaluations to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial for second-degree murder.

Smith recently entered a plea of not guilty on the second-degree murder charge. He is accused of stabbing Stephanie Ross to death about a month ago.

Ross, a social worker, visited Smith’s Dade City apartment to deliver paperwork relating to his health care benefits. According to the Pasco County sheriff’s office, Smith chased Ross from his apartment and stabbed her several times with a butcher knife. One witness told the media that she saw Smith grab Ross in the middle of the street and stab her.

Smith’s defense attorney told the court that circumstances dictate that Smith undergo evalution to determine whether or not he is competent to stand trial and whether he was insane at the time of the stabbing. It is likely that the state attorney’s office will have its own doctor evaluate Smith’s mental state as well.

The judge will ultimately hear testimony from each side’s experts and will ultimately decide whether Smith is competent to stand trial.

Competence to stand trial is different from an insanity defense. When a person claims to be not guilty by reason of insanity, the defense must prove a particular state of mind at the time of the crime. When a person is suggested to be incompetent to stand trial, the court will look at the defendant’s mental condition at the time of trial – regardless of his or her mental condition at the time of the crime.

The court shall grant a motion to determine the defendant’s competency (or shall order such a hearing on its own motion) if there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.


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