The Greenwood Commonwealth reports (http://bit.ly/142GHqP ) that Judge Breland Hilburn this past week granted a prosecution request to send Dr. Arnold Smith to the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield.
The 70-year-old Smith is charged with murder as the alleged instigator of a plot that ended with the death of gunman Keaira Byrd and the serious wounding Derrick Lacy. Byrd allegedly had been hired to kill attorney Lee Abraham, who represented Smith's ex-wife in their divorce years ago. Abraham was not injured.
Smith has also been charged with two counts of conspiring to murder Abraham.
He has been held without bail since his arrest. Smith's trial is scheduled for Feb. 4.
Smith's attorney, William Bell of Ridgeland, has argued that Smith is severely mentally ill and unable to adequately defend himself against charges in an alleged murder-for-hire plot.
Dr. Gilbert S. Macvaugh III, a Greenville psychologist hired by the defense, said that he met with Smith on five different occasions to administer psychological testing and subsequently determined that the doctor is incompetent.
He wrote in a letter filed in support of Smith's incompetency claim that Smith "lacks sufficient present ability to consult with his attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding in the preparation of a defense, and that he lacks a rational understanding of the nature and object of the legal proceedings against him."
This past week, U.S. Magistrate David Sanders refused to block the state's prosecution of Smith for capital murder. Sanders made his ruling Thursday without holding a hearing, contrary to Smith's request. The magistrate said that case law and precedent specifically discourages federal intervention in state criminal prosecutions.
Sanders wrote that "they are questions to be addressed at this time to the state courts, within the state criminal prosecution."
Sanders rejected Bell's contention that Smith is being maliciously prosecuted.
"There is no hint of any ulterior motive for the prosecution," Sanders wrote. "A person Smith is accused of conspiring with to murder Abraham is now dead as a result of a gunfight at the intended victim's office. There is no reason to believe that an attempt to impose criminal responsibility for this homicide is intended to harass Smith."
Bell said that the ruling was not altogether disheartening, since the motion was denied "without prejudice," meaning that a plaintiff may bring a new lawsuit based on the same subject.