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Attorney to argue that man's mental illness led to homicide

November 03, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The attorney for a Jefferson County man charged in the shooting death of a bartender at Cliffside Bar and Grill said Friday he intends to argue that his client's mental illness led to the December 2006 homicide.

James Robert Jones, of 180 Campground Road in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., was indicted in April on a charge of first-degree murder in the Dec. 2, 2006, death of Michael Mihalik, 26, of Harpers Ferry.

Attorney Aaron Amore said Friday that since his client's arrest, Jones has made marked improvement because of increases in medication prescribed for his mental illness while incarcerated.

"He's not hearing voices anymore," said Amore, who confirmed that his client withdrew a request for an additional competency evaluation in a status hearing Friday before 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge David H. Sanders in Charles Town.

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With the request withdrawn, Amore said Jones' trial remains on schedule. It is set to begin Dec. 4.

Jurors will be expected to decide whether Jones is criminally responsible for Mihalik's death because of the illness, which Amore said could have impeded his client's understanding of the consequences of the alleged act or his ability to stop himself from carrying out the shooting.

Police have said a man walked into the Cliffside Bar and Grill at the Quality Inn along U.S. 340 about 10 p.m. and opened fire with a 9 mm automatic handgun.

Jones also was indicted on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of malicious assault, six counts of wanton endangerment involving a firearm, three counts of shooting at another person in a place of public resort and prohibited person in possession of a firearm, according to Jefferson County Circuit Court records.

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