Defense considering mental retardation
The man accused in the 2009 slayings of two clerical workers at a Baton Rouge construction company refused recently to meet with a mental retardation expert hired by defense attorneys who are trying to spare him from a death penalty prosecution.
Richard Matthews refused to see the expert hired to evaluate him, Kyla Romanach, one of Richard Matthews’ court-appointed attorneys, told state District Judge Tony Marabella during a status hearing in the capital murder case Thursday.
Romanach told the judge that Matthews didn’t have glasses to read the test on a previous occasion when she sent the expert to Parish Prison to evaluate him.
“The second time the expert was told, ‘He won’t come out to see you.’ So, it’s sort of difficult to get this evaluation done,” Romanach said. “We are hoping he will come out next visit.”
Romanach said after court she’s optimistic Matthews will meet with the expert this time because Matthews’ medication has been changed.
Marabella gave Matthews’ attorneys until April 4 to decide whether they’ll present mental retardation as part of his defense when the 57-year-old Slaughter man stands trial on two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted first-degree murder.
A trial date has not been set.
Matthews is accused of fatally shooting clerical workers Dianna Tullier, 44, of Walker, and Cheryl Boykin, 55, of Denham Springs, and wounding a third woman employee at Grady Crawford Construction Co. on Dec. 23, 2009.
Matthews had been laid off from the firm several months before the shootings.
Romanach indicated in a December court filing that Matthews may suffer from mental retardation. She said he experienced “significant academic struggles throughout his school career” and did not graduate from high school or obtain a GED.
“His school records are consistent with a diagnosis of mental retardation,” Romanach states in the filing.
In January 2013, at prosecutor Darwin Miller’s request, Marabella appointed a panel of doctors to determine whether Matthews had the capacity to proceed to trial and aid in his own defense.
The judge in September found Matthews competent to assist his attorneys.
The doctors’ assignment had nothing to do with Matthews’ sanity at the time of the offense.
Prosecutors have notified the defense of their intention to seek the death penalty.
“If he has mental retardation, then he cannot be executed,” Romanach said outside the courtroom. “That would take the death penalty off the table.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of mentally retarded persons.
One of the attempted murder counts accuses Matthews of trying to kill Trey Crawford, who was not at the business when Matthews arrived that afternoon.
Trey Crawford is the son of the company’s owner. Matthews was fired by Trey Crawford because of poor work performance, an affidavit states.
Matthews told someone at the company the day he was fired that they had not heard the last of him, but the remark was not reported to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office until Dec. 23, 2009, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux has said.
In statements to police and reporters, Matthews has said he went to the firm that day to kill Trey Crawford because he could not get unemployment benefits.