January 31, 2009 in City

Delling may be fit for trial

Man charged in BSU, UI students’ deaths
By JESSIE L. BONNER Associated Press
 

BOISE – A District Court judge will decide whether 23-year-old John Delling is competent to stand trial in the shooting death of a Boise college student.

Delling was 21 when prosecutors in Ada and Latah counties charged him with killing two Idaho men and investigators linked him to another shooting in Arizona during a 6,500-mile road trip across the western United States.

Fourth District Judge Deborah Bail told a Friday hearing she was leaning toward allowing Delling to go to trial after two mental health experts testified his delusions had receded and his mental health was greatly improved.

Bail said she would issue a ruling but did not specify when.

“There’s no evidence to suggest he’s not competent,” Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Roger Bourne told the court.

Delling is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Boise State University student Bradley Morse, who was shot and killed April 2, 2007. Delling was arrested in Sparks, Nev., the next day.

He is also charged in the fatal shooting of University of Idaho student David Boss, a former high school classmate, in Latah County on March 31, 2007. Investigators have also linked Delling to a March 20, 2007, shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that wounded another high school classmate, but he has not been charged in that case.

Last year, Bail twice deemed Delling unfit to stand trial in the Ada County case. “Almost a year ago, I don’t think anyone would have concluded he was fit to stand trial,” Bail said Friday.

Chad Sombke, a Boise psychologist appointed by the court, and Michael Estess, a psychologist with the Ada County Jail, have been observing Delling for the past year and both testified this week, saying he had significantly improved in the past eight months with medication to treat his paranoid schizophrenia.

Defense lawyer Gus Cahill said he still has reservations about his client’s ability to fully understand trial proceedings and make decisions on testifying or plea bargains.

“If you’re sitting with a client who believes he is Jesus, how can you expect him to make rational decisions?” said Cahill.

Delling appeared in court Friday in yellow prison garb, shackled at the waist and escorted by Ada County deputies.

He briefly smirked as Sombke testified to the hallucinations and delusions he observed in February, such as Delling’s beliefs he was Jesus, had millions of children, could see the future and that his parents adopted him so they could steal his powers.

“The first time I asked him questions, he would often space out, ask me to repeat the question,” Sombke said Friday.

Months later, Sombke said he was shocked after a mental health evaluation showed Delling was exhibiting linear thinking and clearly understood the charges against him and how a jury trial works.

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