Jury to begin deliberating in competency hearing

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Feb. 12, 2014 at 10:04 a.m.
Updated Feb. 12, 2014 at 8:13 p.m.

A jury is expected to determine Thursday if a 17-year-old is competent to stand trial.

The hearing involving Derrick McKenzie, who is charged with aggravated assault of a public servant, introduced more witnesses Wednesday, including two psychologists.

McKenzie is accused of beating a Mid-Coast Family Services counselor while at the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center in September.

Prior to the incident, the Fayette County man escaped from a New Waverly detention facility and stabbed to death his uncle's girlfriend while still handcuffed. He also faces an aggravated robbery charge in another case.

The psychologists' testimonies delved further into the mind of McKenzie and his ability to manipulate and lie. Jurors also listened to a phone conversation McKenzie had in January with his brother.

"If a person can give a reliable history, then he should be able to tell their attorney about things," said Dr. Joel Kutnick, a Georgetown psychologist, about his interviews with McKenzie.

Kutnick examined McKenzie in October and does not fully agree with the finding of another psychiatrist, Dr. Harold Scott, who found McKenzie to have schizoaffective disorder bipolar type.

Kutnick's experience was that McKenzie was "deceptive."

"It throws into question, 'Can you believe anything he says?'" Kutnick asked.

Defense attorney Keith Weiser questioned Kutnick, asking how reliable his understanding of McKenzie was considering he last examined him in October.

"I would agree, I'm assuming," Kutnick replied.

Weiser also questioned the legitimacy of diagnosing McKenzie because Kutnick's findings differed from Scott's previous testimony.

"Two people can look at one person and have different outcomes," Kutnick said. "We don't have objective tests in our field."

But the January phone conversation District Attorney Steve Tyler played for the jurors showed a man having a full-on discussion about his upcoming court case, which Tyler saw as competency.

In the recording, McKenzie was speaking with his brother about sending court materials over. He also spoke of his upcoming court date as well as whether or not his case would get "media coverage."

The recording was established to be McKenzie because he states his name, and his personal identification and cellphone number were logged.

"My conclusion is that he is competent to stand trial," Kutnick said.

Dr. Paul Hamilton, a clinical psychologist who evaluated McKenzie before Kutnick, also believed McKenzie was competent, adding that in his evaluation, he saw McKenzie as exaggerating his symptoms.

Hamilton described McKenzie as manipulative.

Hamilton said he saw some psychosis in McKenzie, especially when he spoke of how he had 15 to 25 guns hidden in the woods around his house.

He even talked about pulling off a school shooting, one that "people would hear about," Hamilton said.

McKenzie, who was dressed in black slacks and a white dress shirt, leaned back in his chair and smirked at the comment.

"He's dangerous," Hamilton said.



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