A psychologist retained by the State of Arkansas to determine the mental status of a Nevada County man imprisoned for 16 years on death row from a 1997 double murder conviction could not reach a conclusion as to the mental competence of Joe Louis Dansby, 60, according to testimony Friday in a federal court hearing.
A psychologist retained by the State of Arkansas to determine the mental status of a Nevada County man imprisoned for 16 years on death row from a 1997 double murder conviction could not reach a conclusion as to the mental competence of Joe Louis Dansby, 60, according to testimony Friday in a federal court hearing. Dr. Roger Moore, who was retained by the Arkansas Attorney General's Office to provide an evaluation of Dansby's mental competency, testified in the concluding day of a three-day federal competency hearing at the Ouachita River Correction Unit in Malvern on Friday that he was unable to determine whether Dansby suffers from a mental disease or defect, and was not able to determine whether Dansby is competent, according to a court official. Dansby has been temporarily housed at the Ouachita River facility for treatment of a degenerative disc disease and the effects of MRSA, or “flesh eating bacteria,” developed from years of living in his own squalor while imprisoned. Moore testified that he could not reach a conclusion because Dansby was uncooperative when interviewed and refused to talk with Moore. That is consistent with evidence already produced that Dansby has refused for 16 years to either cooperate with his own attorneys, with multiple psychologists retained to evaluate him, or with medical professionals within the Arkansas Department of Corrections who have sought to provide him with health care. Moore's testimony followed the conclusion of cross-examination by Assistant Attorney General Pamela Rumpz of Dr. Rick DeMier, a psychologist at the federal prison facility in Springfield, Mo., where Dansby was sent in 2010 and observed by DeMier for 30 days under a court order from then U. S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes. Rumpz elicited testimony from DeMier that he, as well, was never able to directly interview Dansby during the 30 day evaluation period because Dansby refused to talk to him; but, DeMier, on redirect testimony said that he was able to formulate an opinion from the 30 days of observation. DeMier testified July 26 that, based upon his observation, Dansby does suffer from a mental disease or defect and is currently incompetent to participate in his appeal defense, according to a court official. Consequently, U. S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey has left the record of the hearing open, pending the receipt of deposition testimony from Dr. Margaret Rector, a resident psychologist at the Varner Supermax Unit of the ADC, where Dansby is currently incarcerated. According to court officials, Hickey will not call for any briefing on the hearing until after that deposition, which was not scheduled at the conclusion of the hearing Friday. Barnes ruled in 2010 that Dansby 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. Should Hickey determine that Dansby is mentally incompetent, the next phase of the proceedings will be to determine whether he can be restored to competence through medical treatment. Once the competency issue is completely resolved, the court will then address the issue of whether Dansby is mentally retarded under Atkins v. Virginia. Dansby was convicted after a three week trial in Miller County Circuit Court on a change of venue from Nevada County in 1997 of the 1992 shooting deaths of Jeff Lewis and Malissa Clark, both of Nevada County.