Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

Suspect in killings ordered to undergo psychiatric tests

Defendant argues to represent self

October 23, 2003

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— Over the defendant's own objections, a judge has ordered additional psychiatric evaluation of a man facing the death penalty if convicted on charges that he murdered five people last year.

Darrell L. Stallings, 33, of Kansas City, Kan., is due for trial next week on five counts of capital murder. Ron Evans, an attorney with the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, told Wyandotte County District Judge Thomas Boeding on Tuesday that a defense expert who examined Stallings determined he was so paranoid he could not help with his own defense.

Stallings, meanwhile, wants the court-appointed attorneys off his case so he can represent himself.

Mental illness questioned

Boeding said he would select two psychiatrists to conduct independent evaluations of Stallings and wanted them done quickly so the trial was not delayed.

Sheryl Lidtke, an assistant district attorney, strongly opposed the further evaluations, saying there wasn't sufficient evidence indicating that Stallings had a mental illness or defect that made him unable to assist in his defense.

She said Stallings, one of two men charged in the killings, showed predictable emotions experienced by defendants facing trial, including depression and anxiety.

"He is looking at the death penalty, judge," Lidtke said. "He's scared and he should be."

She said that although Stallings' relationship with his own lawyers has become strained, that didn't mean he is incompetent.

'I want justice'

Addressing the court on his own behalf, Stallings too argued against additional evaluations.

"The defense-appointed counsel is trying to circumvent the legal system by avoiding the charge," Stallings said. He then read from a book on Kansas courtroom procedures about a defendant's right to dismiss his attorneys.

Stallings said his attorneys had not examined the evidence as thoroughly as he wanted them to. He said they questioned his competency in retaliation for his request to dismiss them, and asked that the trial proceed.

"These people want justice," Stallings said of the victims' families. "I want justice."

Boeding ruled that he would address Stallings' competency first and then take up his request to represent himself.

Shooting deaths

Stallings and Errik A. Harris, 27, also of Kansas City, Kan., are charged in a shooting rampage that left five people dead and another wounded on June 10, 2002.

Killed that morning were Trina Jennings, 26, Melvin Montague, 34, Destiny Wiles, 23, Samantha Sigler, 24, and Tameika Jackson, 24, all of Kansas City, Kan.

Stallings and Harris are charged with five counts of capital murder and one count each of attempted first-degree murder, unlawful discharge of a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The trial of Harris is scheduled for January.

Meanwhile, in a recent telephone interview with Kansas City television station KCTV, Stallings described his recollections of the incident but said he thought he "was not sane or reasonably responsible."

Stallings said he was at a residence and confronted a man who he said had previously pulled a gun and threatened him and his mother.

In response to a question from KCTV's Dana Wright, Stallings said he shot the man, who was not killed.

"He jumped up and he ran around in the house and I kept shooting at him," Stallings said. "And in the process of shooting him I ... may have hit some other people."

Stallings said he chased the man to another house where he said he asked Jennings, seven months pregnant and hiding in a closet, about the incident involving his mother.

"I said, 'Why did you set up the robbery of my mom? Why would you be involved with a thing of this nature?"' Stallings said.

Stallings said Jennings "was shot two times in the closet, and when she exited the closet she was shot several more times."

Haunted by events

He said he was haunted by the shooting of Jackson. He said he did not know her but that she was a friend of his girlfriend who got in his car for a ride home. He said he wanted to get out of town but that the woman pressed him to take her all the way home.

"And before I knew it, she was in the street dead," Stallings said.

Stallings told the interviewer he recalled firing that shot and remembered "very vividly" everything that happened that day.

"I cried and I pleaded to God to please let this be a dream, a nightmare," he said. "To not let this be a reality to me."

KCTV said the prosecutor's office said that the interview with Stallings was now evidence in its case and that it would be unethical to comment on it.

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