A psychologist appointed by a federal judge to determine the mental status of a Nevada County man convicted of double murder in 1997 testified Thursday that death row inmate Joe Louis Dansby, 60, is mentally incompetent.
Dr. Rick DeMier was appointed in 2010 by now senior status U. S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes to determine whether Dansby, who has been on death row for 16 years, qualified for a legal determination of his mental status in connection with his appeal under the U. S. Supreme Court's decision in Atkins v. Virginia that mentally retarded individuals cannot be executed.
Dr. DeMier was unable to conduct a cell-side evaluation of Dansby because he has neither voluntarily spoken with his attorneys or other psychologists, nor voluntarily interacted with anyone since his incarceration. Consequently, Barnes ordered that Dansby be transported to a federal prison facility in Springfield, Mo., where DeMier was allowed to evaluate him and submit a report under seal to the court.
In a November, 2010, order, Barnes, relying in part upon the sealed report by DeMier, ordered a full hearing on the issue of Dansby's mental competence, which has been underway in the Ouachita River Correctional Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections in Malvern since Wednesday with U. S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey presiding.
DeMier testified Thursday in defense examination that, based upon his evaluation and reports concerning Dansby, that Dansby suffers from a mental disease or defect and that he is currently not mentally competent, according to a court official. Attorneys for the state were also given an opportunity to cross-examined DeMier late Thursday, and that cross-examination was expected to continue today, according to a court official.
The issue of Dansby's competence is central to U. S. Public Defender Scott Braden's contention that Dansby must be afforded an opportunity to participate in his own defense, and be treated for mental illness in order to do so.
Braden also called Scotty Neuman, a health care contract employee of the Arkansas Department of Corrections at the Varner Supermax Unit, who testified to the level of health care given Dansby and his uncooperative nature regarding his own care.
Dr. Shawn Richard, an ADC consulting psychologist at the Varner Supermax Unit, testified to his inability to get Dansby's cooperation for interviews with him and how ADC policies and procedures involving the involuntary medication of inmates are implemented, according to a court official.
Assistant Attorney General Pamela Rumpz is expected to present the state's evidentiary case today including testimony from Dr. Roger Moore, of Cary, N.C., who has attempted to evaluate Dansby for the state.