Metro Weekly

Suspect in Deoni Jones slaying to undergo further mental observation

Gary Niles Montgomery gets new lawyer, will undergo yet another mental evaluation in light of insanity defense

Gary Niles Montgomery, the man accused of stabbing transgender youth Deoni Jones in the face as she waited at a Northeast D.C. bus stop in 2012, appeared in court on Mar. 6, where he was assigned a new lawyer, David Knight, and scheduled for further mental observation, as his defense team attempts to pursue a defense of “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI). 

Deoni Jones
Deoni Jones

Montgomery’s legal team announced in December that it intended to assert the NGRI defense, prompting an independent counsel brought in to help advise Montgomery to declare that her services were no longer required. At that time, Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin ordered both Montgomery’s legal team, consisting of Anthony Matthews and Colle Latin-Jemibewon, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Kerkhoff and David Gorman to draft a proposed order directing the competency examination of Montgomery at St. Elizabeth’s hospital. Such an order is necessary in light of continually-changing determinations of Montgomery’s mental health status. From the time he was first arrested and charged with Jones’s murder, Montgomery has been found competent to stand trial three separate times, in 2012, early 2013 and 2014, and incompetent to stand trial once in late 2013. Each time he was found competent, his defense team has objected to or called into question the validity of those mental health screenings that determined he understood the charges against him and would be able, with legal assistance, to mount a credible defense.

By making both parties agree to the terms of the mental observation prior to carrying it out, the court reduces the possibility that either side may object to the procedures that determine whether Montgomery is competent to stand trial, or whether, as his defense team now insists, he is incapable of understanding the reasons for or the impact of his actions on the night Jones was slain, or the charge of first-degree murder he now faces, which was upgraded from an initial charge of second-degree murder. If there is no objection to the next finding surrounding Montgomery’s mental faculties, the closer the court can come to resolving the case, which has now dragged on three years since Jones’s death in February 2012, by either moving forward with trial or committing Montgomery to an appropriate mental health facility. Jones’s parents, Judean Jones and Alvin Bethea, who have become local advocates for transgender rights in the wake of her death, have previously complained about what they see as a lack of urgency with which the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has pursued a conviction of Montgomery or a resolution of the case, saying that assistant U.S. attorneys have been dismissive of the family’s concerns and have failed to show either sympathy or empathy for those who were close to Jones. 

Montgomery’s next court appearance, for a mental observation hearing in front of Morin, will be on Friday, Mar. 20. 

Jones was stabbed on Feb. 2, 2012 while standing at the bus stop at the corner of East Capitol Street and Sycamore Road NE. According to charging documents in the case, witnesses who saw the attack on Jones told police they saw a man matching Montgomery’s description strike Jones in the head, causing her to fall to the ground. Upon closer observation, the witnesses realized Jones had been stabbed and called over a Metro Transit Police Department officer, who wired for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics rushed Jones to Prince George’s County Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md., where she died of her injuries in the early morning hours of Feb. 3. 

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