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Competency hearing in juvenile detention beating case continues

By JR Ortega
Feb. 11, 2014 at 11:04 a.m.
Updated Feb. 11, 2014 at 8:12 p.m.


Other details

• The competency hearing for Derrick McKenzie continues at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

• The last witness expected to be called in the hearing is Dr. Joel Kutnick, a Georgetown psychiatrist.

• Aggravated assault of a public servant is a first-degree felony, and if found guilty, it is punishable with five to 99 years or life in prison.

Questions of paranoia, an unknown man named David, a mental illness and competency kept jurors' attention Tuesday.

The jury listened to the stories and analysis surrounding Derrick McKenzie, a 17-year-old who is charged with aggravated assault of a public servant in September.

McKenzie was charged with beating a Mid-Coast Family Services counselor while at the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center.

When the assault occurred, McKenzie was assigned to the juvenile center because he was charged with escaping from a New Waverly detention facility and stabbing to death his uncle's girlfriend in Fayette County while still handcuffed. He also faces an aggravated robbery charge in another case.

Defense attorney Keith Weiser maintained the Fayette County man is incompetent to stand trial on the assault charge based on past psychiatric evaluations and family testimony.

District Attorney Steve Tyler disagreed, saying McKenzie is competent, and the evidence lies in the flaws of the psychiatric evaluations and in McKenzie's ability to lie.

McKenzie's stepmother, Melissa McKenzie, said that since the age of 12, the defendant has shown signs of paranoia.

"Initially, I thought it was kid's play," she said in Judge Robert C. Cheshire's court. "He was very paranoid all the time."

She went into some detail, remembering times when he would watch for a van to come get him.

He would even go outside and search the perimeter of the house, she said.

About a year later, he began talking about a "David" character, who, his stepmother said, made McKenzie do bad things.

At the time, McKenzie did not have any friends, she said, so she believes David may have been a product of his imagination.

"This was several times a week that he would do this," she added.

Despite his behavior, neither McKenzie's stepmother nor his father, Eric McKenzie, took their son to a doctor.

Still, his parents feel his paranoia led to his run-ins with the law.

Tyler disagreed.

Tyler asked McKenzie's stepmother about his smoking marijuana at age 9, but she denied knowing that.

Tyler went on to ask whether she was aware of McKenzie's ability to lie and manipulate.

"I have caught him in lies," she admitted. "But he denied it."

In terms of competency, Tyler talked about how McKenzie had zero credits in high school but upon being tested to catch up, he was qualified to be a junior. Also, his IQ is 93, which is above average.

This, Tyler said, does not show incompetence, which was the biggest crux of Tuesday's hearing.

Dr. Harold Scott, a Georgetown psychiatrist who examined McKenzie several months before the juvenile detention incident, said at first he felt McKenzie was competent for trial because he was "seemingly cooperative" and "charming," Tyler said.

But in further interviews with the family, Scott learned more about McKenzie's paranoia, which Scott diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, which affects McKenzie's thought and rationalization process.

McKenzie's mother, grandparents and one aunt had similar type disorders, which are genetic dispositions.

The outcome of the interviews caused the doctor to change his assessment to report McKenzie was not fit for trial.

For most of Tuesday afternoon, Tyler questioned Scott, trying to understand how a psychiatrist sees competency. He also questioned why Scott's diagnoses would not agree with another doctor who saw the same paranoia Scott saw.

Tyler questioned that if McKenzie lied so easily, why could he not lie about his symptoms?

"Lying does not mean incompetency," Scott said.

Scott stood by his decision that based on his evidence and research, McKenzie was not competent for trial, despite his original assessment.

"I was concerned it would have been an injustice," Scott said.

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