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Gary Niles Montgomery, the Washington man accused of stabbing transgender woman Deoni Jones to death in February 2012, was today declared incompetent to stand trial and ordered to be held at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where he will undergo psychiatric care for ”competency restoration.”
Montgomery, facing a charge of first-degree murder while armed, was twice found competent after his arrest, but his lawyers, Anthony Matthews and Colle Latin, objected to both findings and argued that the court needed to revisit the issue. D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin heeded those objections and ordered a third mental evaluation. That evaluation was performed over a 30-day period at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the D.C. Department of Health institution that houses defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial or in need of intense psychiatric care.
Based on the results of that third evaluation, Morin ruled Montgomery incompetent to stand trial, placed him under St. Elizabeth’s care, and ordered Montgomery to submit to a fourth observation while in custody. Morin scheduled a Feb. 7 mental-observation hearing in Superior Court, which will mark four days after the two-year anniversary of Jones’s death. At that hearing it will be determined whether the case against Montgomery can move to trial, dependent on whether his mental condition has improved.
Montgomery, originally charged with second-degree murder while armed, was initially found competent to stand trial after a brief screening in March 2012 following several mental-observation hearings. But the case stalled after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia failed to obtain an indictment on a charge of first-degree murder while armed until November 2012. During that eight-month period, Montgomery switched lawyers for the second time since his arrest, leading to further delays in the case against him.
Matthews and Latin, Montgomery’s current defense attorneys, raised questions about their client’s competency, prompting Morin to order subsequent mental-health evaluations in early 2013. Montgomery was again found competent to stand trial, leading to another objection from the defense team and the scheduling of the third mental observation.
In the report issued following the second mental observation, St. Elizabeth’s CEO Patrick Canavan and KyleeAnn Stevens, the director of forensic services at St. Elizabeth’s, wrote that Montgomery was able to comprehend the charges against him and the possible sentencing.
”Mr. Montgomery was able to cooperate with this evaluation without difficulty and would likely be able to behave appropriately in the courtroom,” Canavan and Stevens wrote. ”He did not demonstrate any signs of mental illness during this evaluation such as being distracted by hallucinations or responding to internal stimuli. … Mr. Montgomery demonstrated an adequate factual and rational understanding of the proceedings against him, and has exhibited a sufficient present ability to assist his attorney in crafting a defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding.”
Moreover, Canavan and Stevens noted at the time that Montgomery not only understood the sentence he could face if found guilty, but demonstrated an ability to modify his statements, legal strategy, and plea options when faced with hypothetical scenarios that might arise in the course of a trial. Both Canavan and Stevens recommended that Montgomery continue to take anti-psychotic medication for an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder, but noted that while on the medication he appeared competent and fully aware of his surroundings, prompting his transfer from St. Elizabeth’s to the D.C. Jail.
According to charging documents, at least two witnesses saw a man matching Montgomery’s description strike Jones in the head as she stood at a bus stop on the corner of East Capitol Street and Sycamore Road NE, in the city’s Benning Heights neighborhood. One witness found Jones had been stabbed in the head and called for help, while a second attempted to pursue the attacker but gave up the chase in order to seek help for Jones.
A Metro Transit Police Department officer on patrol responded to the scene and called for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics took Jones to Prince George’s County Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md., where she later died of her injuries in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 2012.