Despite creeping dementia, low IQ, man accused in 30-year cold case is competent to stand trial

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A man charged with the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl in 1994 is competent to stand trial in his death penalty case.

In an order issued Monday, Circuit Judge James Daniel determined James Leon Jackson is capable of assisting with his defense and understanding the charges against him, along with other cognitive metrics used to determine competency.

Daniel’s order came after the testimony of five doctors, with varying views of Jackson’s mental capabilities.

Two found he was incompetent to stand trial, and a third found he would not be considered competent enough to consent to medical treatment. All three cited his degenerative dementia, and one cited his low IQ of 68, which the judge concedes “falls within the intellectually disabled range.”

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Schindler, Anne

Two other doctors found that Jackson met the six-prong standard for competence, but even they agreed he showed signs of memory problems. One noted, for instance, that Jackson “tires easily and may become dizzy” adding that “he may need some accommodation during the trial.”

Jackson is accused of raping and killing his next-door neighbor while her family was moving out of their apartment on 103rd Street. The girl’s father was deployed at sea at the time; the family was preparing to move into Base housing.

Jackson, who has pleaded not guilty, was questioned by police at the time, and in subsequent years. But it wasn’t until police say a DNA test connected him to the crime in 2013 that he was arrested.

In his order, Judge Daniel noted the experts “reached opposite conclusions based on an honest and good-faith professional difference of opinion.” But he noted that a defendant remains “presumptively competent” to stand trial unless it’s shown otherwise, and that it is not the burden of prosecutors to prove competence.

Daniel acknowledged that Jackson demonstrated some memory problems. However, he noted, that since his arrest, Jackson “has steadfastly maintained that he was simply not present during the homicide and knows nothing about the details. Given this position, it is not entirely clear why defense counsel would ever have to seek [his] assistance to compare any inconsistencies in the testimony about the details of the homicide or homicide investigation.”

The case is set for trial in late September.

© 2018 WTLV

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