Accused officer killer's competency in question - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Accused officer killer's competency in question

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - It's happened numerous times in the past.  Mentally unstable individuals are out on the street.  In 1991, Stewpot Director Matt Devenney was shot to death in broad daylight by a man with a history of crime and psychological problems.  Less than a year later, Jackson Police Sergeant Ricky Jo Simmons was shot and killed by David Smith, who had three prior arrests for lunacy and was out on a five-day pass from Whitfield State Hospital.

This week, the man accused of shooting a rookie Jackson policeman, Glen Agee, last weekend appeared delusional during an appearance in court.

Should Latwan Smith have been in in-patient psychiatric care? His brothers wouldn't talk on camera Wednesday, but they confirmed that Smith had visited a behavioral health center recently, and had a prescription for a powerful anti-psychotic drug. They say Smith didn't like taking it because it made him sleep all day. It's unclear whether Smith had avoided taking his medication before Friday night's shooting incident.

If Smith were to claim insanity in his defense, how far would that claim take him? Some key figures are saying Smith seemed competent enough to manipulate the situation Friday night.

"My thoughts as it relates to this particular individual is that he clearly knew right from wrong," says JPD Assistant Chief Lee Vance. "We have some information that illustrates he basically plotted his escape from the time he got himself in the patrol car."

Chief Vance declined to elaborate on that information, regarding the night 31-year-old officer Glen Agee was found shot in the face. Police say after a domestic violence arrest, Smith asked Agee and another officer in the car to roll down the back window. He had manipulated his handcuffs from behind him to in front of him. The shooting occurred when Smith and Agee struggled outside the car.

As far as Smith's demeanor in court, "It appears to me that he appeared to be crazy at a very convenient time," Chief Vance says.

"I think what we're looking at now is someone who does know the difference between right and wrong regardless of any alleged mental disorder," says Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith.

D.A. Smith says Latwan Smith has pleaded guilty to crimes in the past, and a judge has to deem him competent before accepting that plea. Should Latwan Smith have been locked away? Perhaps not in a mental institution, according to the D.A.

"Looking at his record, it's a possibility he should have been incarcerated for a long time," D.A. Smith says. "An evaluation, had that been an issue, probably would have come up at that time."

The public defender's office declined to comment on Latwan Smith's competency.  The Office of Capital Defense Counsel will assist in Smith's defense.

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