Trials delayed as judge orders evaluation on teen charged with murder, attempted murder
Published 6:13 pm Thursday, April 7, 2016
Three trials for a Roan Mountain teen charged in multiple crimes, including one set to begin Monday, have been postponed after the judge presiding over all of the cases order a forensic mental health evaluation be performed on the defendant.
On Thursday, Anthony Joseph Lacy, 19, of Roan Mountain, appeared in court for a hearing on motions filed by his attorney Patrick Denton in reference to his trial on charges of attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault.
Denton had petitioned the court to postpone Lacy’s scheduled trial next week so that a forensic mental health evaluation could be performed, citing his belief that his client has some mental health issues that could be relevant to his defense. Denton also filed other motions seeking to limit evidence the state could use against Lacy during the trial.
Thursday’s hearing marked the second time Denton appeared before Judge Stacy Street asking for a mental health evaluation on Lacy, a fact which Street noted during Thursday’s proceedings. Street denied the initial request on March 29 based on the information that was available at that time, but he directed Denton to re-file his request if additional information became available.
“Since that time, Mr. Denton has filed a more detailed motion for continuance,” Street said, adding Denton had included medical and mental health records for Lacy which were filed with the court under seal.
Denton said in his opinion the information contained in the sealed medical and mental health records could lend credence to a diminished capacity defense. He stated he had filed the records under seal with the court but had not yet provided copies of those records to the District Attorney’s Office.
Street asked Assistant District Attorney Dennis Brooks what the state’s position was on the request to delay the case for a mental health evaluation.
“It’s hard for me to argue this motion or state a position having not seen the documents it’s based on,” Brooks said.
Street said he had looked over the records very carefully.
“In viewing the documents, it is this court’s opinion that there are items that would give rise to the need for further evaluation,” Street said. “The items contained in and attached to this motion are of such a concern that I feel I would not be doing my duty if I did not allow this to be explored further.”
“It would not surprise this court that further mental health evaluation be necessary at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute,” Street added, saying he could not order an evaluation at the Mental Health Institute until the proper procedure had been followed.
Street said this was not a decision he had reached lightly, adding he had to also consider the other cases which Lacy awaits trial on, including a case involving a charge of first degree murder in which the state is seeking the death penalty against Lacy.
“The ruling by this court affects not only this case but could potentially affect the capital case as well,” Street said.
In the interest of efficiency, Street said he would allow the results of the mental health evaluation for the attempted murder trial to stand for the other two trials should evaluations be requested in those cases.
“The court is going to take the position that the evaluation is not case specific, it is defendant specific,” Street said. “I am not going to allow for three requests for mental health evaluations.”
Attorneys Jim Bowman and Gene Scott, who represent Lacy in the first degree murder capital case were present during Thursday’s proceedings and Bowman expressed their stance on the requested mental health evaluation.
“We are adamantly opposed to his being evaluated by any state evaluators,” Bowman said. “I will instruct my client not to answer any questions about the homicide case.”
Bowman said he feared providing the state with access to a mental health evaluation for the attempted murder case would give them an undue advantage when the time comes to try the capital case.
Street said he did not want to “hamper” the defense in the capital case but based on the information contained in the sealed medical and mental health records he felt the evaluation was necessary and if he did not allow it he felt the case could be overturned on appeal and then it would have to be brought to trial again.
Originally, the attempted murder case was set to go to trial beginning on Monday and the capital case was set for a two-week trial beginning on Oct. 24. Street set the attempted murder and aggravated assault case for trial beginning on Oct. 24. The following week, beginning on Oct. 31, Lacy will stand trial in a separate case charging him with aggravated assault and vandalism. The first degree murder case will now be postponed until early 2017 when it will be heard either in March or May, depending upon when the witnesses in the case will be available.
Before court ended on Thursday, Street took a moment to address Lacy directly regarding his outburst during a court proceeding on March 29.
“You have shown a propensity for such outbursts,” Street said. “I don’t care if you cuss me or not, but I cannot let you disrespect this court or disrupt these proceedings, especially in front of a jury.
Street said he had contacted the Administrative Office of the Courts regarding ways in which any future outbursts could be handled.
“There are two courses of action we can take. The first one would be to gag you while you sit there beside counsel,” Street said, adding that method would be tried first but if it proved ineffective he would order the second option be implemented. “If so necessary, you will be moved to a separate room and view the trial on closed-circuit television.”
“Neither of those would be to your advantage,” he added, saying he would “act with swiftness” if Lacy chose to create a disturbance during any of his trial proceedings.
In response to the judge’s comments, Lacy addressed Street personally.
“Your Honor, I would like to apologize for what I said before,” Lacy said. “I was off my meds and I didn’t get no sleep. I’m sorry.”
Lacy faces multiple charges in multiple cases before the Criminal Court.
In July 2014 Lacy was arrested along with Demetrice Cordell, 21, also of Roan Mountain, following what police described as a “crime spree” through the Roan Mountain community. Lacy and Cordell — who were aged 18 and 19 respectively at the time — are charged with first degree murder in the death of 56-year-old Danny Vance while attempting to rob him. In that case, Lacy also faces charges of especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, three counts of theft over $1,000, one count of theft over $500, three counts of theft under $500, three counts of auto burglary and one count of evading arrest.
The other cases against Lacy stem from crimes which police say Lacy committed while incarcerated in the Carter County Detention Center.
In the case charging Lacy with attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault, Lacy is accused of assaulting and attempting to kill a corrections officer with a mop handle.
Lacy also faces charges of aggravated assault and vandalism following an incident where officers say Lacy broke off a sprinkler head inside his cell and then used it to assault his cellmate.
The fourth criminal court case against Lacy stems from an incident where police say Lacy threatened to harm Cordell if Cordell did not “change his story” regarding the murder case.