Lowndes judge rules Lee competent for trial

Published 10:38 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2014

By Jonathan Bryant

The Greenville Advocate

Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell ruled that accused triple-homicide suspect Deandra Marquis Lee is mentally competent to stand trial for the deaths of 9-year-old twins and their elderly babysitter.

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The court ordered Lee to undergo a mental evaluation on July 21, 2014, to determine if he was mentally fit to stand trial.

Lovell reviewed the examination results and determined “that reasonable grounds do not exist to doubt the defendant’s mental competency.”

Lovell then denied Lee’s motion for a competency hearing and ordered criminal proceedings to continue “without unnecessary delay.”

Lowndes County District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer said that, given the capital nature of the case, a determination of competency was standard procedure.

“If a question comes up in any case about the competency of a defendant, then the court — on its own motion — or the defense attorney can make a motion to have a determination of competency,” Tesmer said.

“The state has contracts with various psychologists that handle those mental evaluations, and they’re always done in capital cases because we want to make sure of the defendant’s competency to stand trial.”

The process itself involves a doctor meeting with the client to perform several tests, including intelligence quotient (IQ) tests, in addition to interviews with the client and other people who might be involved with him or her. The interview may also involve jail staff.

“And they look at our files and take whatever information the defense gives, and then they run a battery of tests on the defendant and come up with their findings,” Tesmer said.

Though the evaluation process itself doesn’t take long, according to Tesmer, it’s a thorough examination that is difficult, if not impossible, to manipulate.

“They ask the same kinds of questions in several different questions, so if they’re malingering or being false, it’s not likely that they’ll answer it the same way because they’ll forget what lie they told earlier in the testing,” Tesmer added.

Lee pleaded not guilty in August 2013 to murdering twins Jordan and Taylor DeJerinett, as well as their 73-year-old babysitter Jack Mac Girdner.

Following a statewide search for the missing children and their caretaker, all three of the bodies were found along Alabama Highway 21, where it was determined that the victims were killed by gunshot.

Lee was arrested June 9, 2012, in Selma and charged with six counts of capital murder.

The total of six counts can be reached by counting one count for each murder committed during a robbery (the three murders that involved robbery automatically becomes three capital murder charges).

The fourth occurred when two or more people were killed in the same plan, scheme or design.

Lastly, the final two additional charges were derived from the fact that the DeJerinett twins were each under the age of 14, for a total of six.

Trial is tentatively set for April 6, 2015.