Pa. man charged with killing mother found competent to stand trial

October 25, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Marcus Wallace
Submitted photo

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — A man criminally charged with killing his 70-year-old mother has been found competent to stand trial, although those proceedings have been delayed.

In an opinion and order issued this week, Franklin County (Pa.) Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Walsh said he reviewed several reports from mental health professionals who evaluated Marcus Wallace.

Wallace, 41, is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, burglary, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, attempted criminal homicide and aggravated assault.

Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty, say Wallace attacked his mother, Consuella Wallace, in her Hamilton Township, Pa., home Dec. 10, 2009. She died from her injuries in February 2010.

Wallace’s trial was scheduled to begin Dec. 3.

“Defense counsel have failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Wallace cannot understand the nature or object of proceedings against him, or participate and assist in his defense,” Walsh wrote in the opinion.

Walsh said there is substantial evidence that Wallace can cooperate in proceedings, but is refusing to do so.

Psychiatrists who evaluated Wallace came to different conclusions, but repeatedly mentioned his distrust and dislike of Public Defender Michael Toms. A court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Clarence Watson, interviewed the defendant for more than three hours and determined he suffers from paranoid personality disorder, not a psychotic mental illness.

“Wallace can cooperate with counsel and his experts, and his refusal to do so is a free choice, not the product of mental illness,” Walsh wrote.

Walsh also pointed to Wallace’s “commanding understanding” of how the legal system works, saying the defendant has authored more than 100 motions and petitions on his own. Wallace studied criminal justice at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, according to court documents.

Walsh’s opinion also addresses the defense team’s claims it has not had time to prepare for potential sentencing, which occurs with the jury immediately following a death penalty trial in Pennsylvania. He writes that defense attorneys cannot use Wallace’s voluntary noncooperation to postpone trial indefinitely.

“At some point, Wallace must bear the consequences of failing to cooperate with his lawyers and experts,” the judge wrote.

Still, the judge granted a motion to push back the trial, but did not set a new start date.

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