BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
January 15, 2013
Another psychiatrist has determined that a Baton Rouge man accused of killing his grandfather in 2009 is competent to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge, a prosecutor told a judge Monday.
East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns also told reporters that the psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Wade, has found that Dustin Musso was sane at the time of the May 2009 incident.
In the fall of 2010, state District Judge Mike Erwin ruled that Musso, now 32, was competent to stand trial in the slaying of Peter Musso, 76. The judge made that finding after psychiatrists Jose Artecona and Terry LeBourgeois testified at an Oct. 13, 2010, hearing that they found no evidence of mental disease or defect in Musso but said he has an anti-social personality disorder.
Last summer, Erwin appointed Wade and fellow psychiatrist Herman Soong to re-examine Musso at the request of one of Musso’s court-appointed attorneys, Lance Unglesby, who told the judge he had “new and expanded” medical information to provide to the court.
Wade interviewed Musso and found him competent to proceed, Burns told the judge during a hearing Monday, but she said Musso did not submit to an interview with Soong.
Erwin then asked Musso if he will talk with the psychiatrist, and Musso indicated he would. Musso also told the judge he takes a lot of medication.
Erwin rescheduled Musso’s competency hearing for Feb. 14. It was supposed to take place Monday.
Kerry Cuccia, one of Musso’s attorneys from the Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana, said after court that some of Musso’s medication “interfered with the interview” by Soong.
Cuccia declined comment on Wade’s findings.
“It would be improper for me to make any comment at this time,” Cuccia added when asked if Musso intends to change his plea of not guilty to a dual plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
Burns, who recently took over prosecution of the case, said she apologized Monday to two members of the victim’s family for how slowly the case has progressed over the past several years.
“My intent is to have this case tried by the end of this year,” she said.
When Burns was told that Musso was shaking his head and rolling his eyes while she spoke in the courtroom, the prosecutor replied, “I think that’s his MO. It’s our intent to stop all of that.”
Musso wore a mask during the Oct. 13, 2010, hearing to prevent him from spitting. He has not worn such a mask in court since then.
Musso also is charged with attempted second-degree battery and two counts of battery on an officer stemming from a Feb. 10 incident at Parish Prison in which sheriff’s officials say Musso cut another inmate’s throat with a razor.
Musso spit on two detectives when they tried to question him about the cutting, sheriff’s officials said.
In the murder case, Musso is accused of killing his grandfather, setting the grandfather’s Glenda Drive home on fire and stealing his car.
Peter Musso’s body was discovered May 5, 2009, by firefighters while they put out the fire.
Police have said investigators believe the fire was set to cover up Peter Musso’s death.
Although he died of smoke inhalation, an autopsy showed the elder Musso suffered trauma to his head, police stated.
Dustin Musso was sentenced to four years in prison in 1999 for stealing his grandmother’s car from the same Glenda Drive home, court records show.
Musso’s attorneys have said previously that he was in 23 foster homes starting at the age of 3 and has had a “troubled” and “tortured” life.