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Ruling due today in Avondre Graham murder case

Tue., Sept. 24, 2013, midnight

Judge to decide whether Graham able to stand trial in McGill death

A judge will decide today whether the young man accused of killing a woman as she walked her dog along the Spokane River last year should proceed to trial or be deemed too mentally incompetent.

Avondre C. Graham, 18, is described by his defense lawyer as incapable of understanding the proceedings against him and unable to assist in his own defense. The defense team wants the criminal case halted, but prosecutors are objecting.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann C. Moreno, who presided over a hearing Monday examining Graham’s mental condition, said she will issue a ruling today on the competency question. If Moreno agrees with the defense arguments, the criminal case would be set aside as authorities determine the best way to address Graham’s mental incompetency.

Graham is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the May 3, 2012, stabbing death of Sharlotte McGill, 55, who was walking her dog along a trail near her apartment complex in the 1800 block of East South Riverton Avenue. Graham, who also lived at the apartment complex, was arrested four months after the attack. Although he was a juvenile at the time, he has been charged as an adult.

At Monday’s hearing, attorneys debated whether Graham’s intelligence is so low that he should be declared incompetent to stand trial. An IQ test Graham took when he was 8 years old measured his IQ at 55. Other tests also showed his IQ in the range of 55 to 65, attorneys said.

Graham’s defense attorney, Tom Krzyminski, said Graham does not have the ability to comprehend basic legal proceedings. More importantly, he said, Graham is unable to assist his defense team.

“Mr. Graham would basically not be here,” Krzyminski said. “He would not be present at the trial.”

But Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla argued that other tests showed he has a basic comprehension of the legal system and has an ability to learn.

“There’s things the court can do to slow a trial down and make sure the defendant understands the case against him,” Cipolla said.

Dr. Nathan Henry, a forensic psychologist at Eastern State Hospital, said that although Graham suffers from “mild retardation,” tests and other evaluations indicate he is likely competent to stand trial.

Henry said that records indicated that Graham was hospitalized at least twice in a psychiatric hospital and has a history of depression. But depression, he said, is not considered a mental defect that would make him incompetent.

Defense witness Dr. Bruce Frumkin, a psychologist based in Miami, said one of the tests Henry used to judge Graham competent should not be used on someone with such a low IQ. He also said that while Graham has demonstrated an ability to repeat facts, he hasn’t shown that he truly comprehends the concepts he’s asked about.

This story was changed on Sept. 24, 2013 to correct an incorrect date.


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