Judge suspects defendant is under the influence in court, orders drug screen, which finds evidence of cocaine and opioids; hearing delayed
photo by: Journal-World File
A defendant who wanted to waive his right to a preliminary hearing was brought up short Thursday by a Douglas County judge who suspected that the man was in no condition to make such a weighty decision.
The judge ordered a drug screen on the spot, which reportedly found evidence of cocaine, opioids and marijuana in the system of the Lawrence man, who is charged with shooting two people.
The man, Dalton Vale Turner, 21, faces two felony counts of aggravated battery and one felony count of aggravated assault, according to charging documents.
photo by: Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
The charges relate to an incident in the early hours of Feb. 1 in the 500 block of North 900 Road, south of Clinton Lake in rural Douglas County, where Turner is alleged to have shot a 47-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman during a domestic dispute while Turner was heavily intoxicated. Both victims were taken to a Topeka hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, as the Journal-World reported.
Turner’s brother, Chandlor Saber Matney, 24, of Lawrence, was also charged with one misdemeanor count of assault and one misdemeanor count of domestic battery in connection with the incident after he allegedly put his stepfather in a chokehold while wrestling for a gun.
Turner was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Thursday at which prosecutors would have presented evidence to show that a crime had been committed and that Turner should be ordered to stand trial.
Turner appeared in court with a cast on his left forearm. His attorney, Tyler Garretson, of Olathe, said that Turner wanted to waive his right to the preliminary hearing.
Judge Sally Pokorny began to question Turner about whether he understood his decision to waive the hearing. Turner responded to her questions in a low, mumbling voice.
Pokorny then stopped her line of questioning.
“I can’t say your client can give this waiver freely and clearly. Your client appears to be under the influence of something,” Pokorny said to Garretson.
She then ordered Turner to report to court services for a drug screen. She said that she would not order him to be arrested if Turner failed the test but that she needed to know if he was capable of making rational decisions.
Some time passed before Garretson and Turner returned to the courtroom.
When the hearing resumed, Pokorny said that the drug test results from court services showed that Turner had cocaine, Oxycodone, morphine or heroin, and marijuana in his system. As a condition of Turner’s bond, he is not to partake in any illegal substances, according to court records.
“It doesn’t seem to me you are in an appropriate state of mind to waive your preliminary hearing or make any other decisions in this case,” Pokorny said.
Garretson said that Turner had been prescribed some of the drugs that were in his system but that he was not going to contest the results of the test.
Garretson then asked for the court to schedule a hearing for Turner to waive his preliminary hearing but requested that Turner be allowed to appear by video because Turner has a warrant in Johnson County and Garretson didn’t want to risk Turner not showing up for court because he was in custody somewhere else.
Turner is charged in Johnson County with the felony of fleeing and eluding law enforcement in connection with an incident on May 13, according to court records. He failed to appear in court for that charge on May 24, and a warrant was issued for his arrest with a $25,000 cash or surety bond.
Pokorny said she was skeptical about Turner appearing by video because she would not be able to assess his mental state in the same way she did during the in-person hearing. She recommended that Garretson work to resolve Turner’s legal issues in Johnson County before Turner’s next court appearance to avoid any conflicts.
Pokorny scheduled a hearing on July 6 for Turner.
After the hearing, Turner was taken into custody in connection with his Johnson County warrant. He was out of custody prior to the hearing on a $15,000 bond in Douglas County.
The misdemeanor charges against Turner’s brother, Matney, were dismissed on April 14 after Matney’s attorney, Robert O’Connor, successfully argued that Matney acted in defense of Turner.
O’Connor argued that Matney put his “much larger” stepfather in a chokehold only after he saw the stepfather on top of Turner and he heard gunshots.
“It was his belief that unless he intervened, the much larger (man) would have used imminent unlawful force to cause injury to Turner,” O’Connor wrote in a memorandum to support his self-defense immunity motion.