Competency ruling for Spokane murder suspect put off until Tuesday



Posted on September 23, 2013 at 5:10 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 23 at 6:41 PM

SPOKANE, Wash.-- A competency hearing began Monday in Spokane for accused killer Avondre Graham. The 18-year-old is accused of fatally stabbing Sharlotte McGill in May of 2012 along a North Spokane trail.

CONNECT: Live updates from court

The Spokane courtroom was packed with Graham’s family and friends during the Monday hearing. 

A psychologist from Miami testified for the defense. He has evaluated Graham's mental state.  Psychologist Bruce Frumkin testified that Graham has an intellectual disability and mild retardation. He also claimed that Graham had “very low intelligence” which will force Graham to give answers that he thinks people want to hear.

"Basically, 99.5% of the population his age are brighter than he is. He would have mild retardation," said Frumkin, testifying on Monday over a video feed from Miami for the defense.

WATCH: Experts have different opinions of competency of Avondre Graham

Witnesses said the Graham showed no emotion as the psychologist discussed his mental state.

"He had a verbal comprehension of 68, which is the lower two percent range. And a working memory index of 66. That's the lower one percent range,"  Frumkin said.

The psychologist stated that he spent eight hours interviewing Graham. He also met with the suspect’s mother.  Frumkin also referenced a test that the prosecution’s expert did on Graham. He called their test “awful.”

WATCH: Sharlotte McGill's daughter speaks out on murder suspect

"He often didn't remember important things about his history," said Frumkin. "For example, the simple question, like 'how far did you go in school?' I had to ask him that three times." 

He said that it may have been too painful for Graham to think about his past. Frumkin said that Graham told him that he had seen lots of abuse and violence growing up. Detectives believed that he echoed that violence in his teenage years.

Testimony on Monday also showed that Graham was suicidal and would binge on alcohol and drugs. When these details came out in court, Graham's family got emotional.

"Mr. Graham has a pretty significant history of psychiatric problems and treatment, multiple hospitalizations due to behavior problems, depression," said Frumkin.

The defense said that these issues are among a long list that make him incompetent to stand trial.

Dr. Nathan Henry took the stand on behalf of the prosecution and disagreed with Frumkin's conclusion.

"When I asked what would the defendant hope to get in pleading guilty, he said 'less time,'" Dr. Henry said. "That's another example of demonstrating some of the more complicated aspects of legal proceedings."

The judge decided to wait until Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. to make a decision. If she deems Graham as incompetent to stand trial then he will be taken to an institution where experts will try to rehabilitate him until he is.

WATCH: Murder suspect's family 'no comment' in courtroom

Graham was arrested in 2012 following the murder of McGill. He pleaded not guilty to Second Degree Murder, Third Degree Assault and First Degree Robbery.

Graham matched the suspect description Sharlotte McGill gave before she died in May. She told police a black man with an odd eye stabbed her several times on South Riverton, near the area where the Mission Park attack happened.

According to court documents, Graham told police the morning of May 3, he was sitting on a rock near Tuffy’s trail when McGill walked by him. He claimed McGill made a racial slur and commented on his music. Graham said he became upset and picked up two baseball-size rocks.

According to court documents, Graham admitted to throwing one of the rocks at the back of McGill’s head, bringing her to her knees. He said he grabbed a folding knife from his pocket and stabbed McGill three times, and she started to scream. He then threw the knife into the river and walked back to his apartment.

Police interviewed Graham shortly after the murder and took a DNA sample from him. The sample did not match DNA found on McGill. Police said that does not mean Graham is not the killer. 

Detectives said during questioning, Graham also had extensive knowledge about McGill’s murder.