Forensic Psychologist Deems Defendant Incompetent for Trial

November 1, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

Expert witnesses are often used in a trial to evaluate the case or specifically the defendant. One type of expert witness is a forensic psychologist, who will study the defendant to determine whether they believe they are competent to stand trial.

The defendant in a triple-murder case has just been declared incompetent to stand trial and instead will be transferred to a Florida State Hospital until he is considered competent. We will provide the details of the case, along with information on competency in a trial.

What was the Case?

On December 1st, 2022, William Conway Broyles called the police around 7:15 am to report a murder. The 58-year-old Nassau County father and church music director told deputies he had shot his wife and two adult children.

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper announced the details of the case in a press release, claiming the murder, “doesn’t make sense.” According to Broyles, he had shot his wife, Candace Lynn Broyles, 57, in the living room. He then went into his daughter’s bedroom, Cara Lynn Broyles, 27, and shot her while she was waking up.

After that Broyles was said to have broken into his son’s bedroom, Aaron Christopher Broyles, 28, and shot him. “He then went back to get another gun, came back and shot his son again,” Sheriff Leeper said.

Deputies claim there had never been any calls regarding domestic abuse or anger issues in the past. Broyles was the director of Music Ministries at the Hodges Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville. Broyles was shown on their website, where he was described as ‘happily married for 30 years.’

“It doesn’t’ make sense when you look at the whole circumstance of what we believe happened,” Leeper said. “It’s just a senseless act. When he was asked why he didn’t just shoot himself, he said he was too scared to do that, which is crazy.”

Broyles has now been found incompetent to go to trial by Judge James Daniel. The ruling comes after two psychologists evaluated the defendant and gave their evaluation in a courtroom on October 20th, 2022.

Forensic Psychologist Evaluation

Dr. Allen Harris is the forensic psychologist who last evaluated Broyles in October. Dr. Harris said he is currently unable to reach a clear conclusion about Broyles’ competency but has recommended psychiatric hospitalization.

When evaluating the defendant, Dr. Harris stated that Broyles often sat in his cell, not eating, and defecating on himself. “He would sit on the side of his bed, looking at the floor, playing with his feet for hours and hours at a time,” Harris said.

The other forensic psychologist used in the case was Dr. Jennifer Rohrer, who agreed with Dr. Harris. According to Dr. Rohrer’s testimony, Broyles’ physical and psychological well-being has declined over the last several months. She is unsure if Broyles has an unknown medical condition, but Dr. Rohrer believes that hospitalization should be beneficial to his state.

“At the state hospital, he would be observed 24/7 the entire time he is there, when professional staff are there, when they are not when he doesn’t think he is observed he is being observed,” Dr. Rohrer said.

Judge Daniel said the evidence in the case appears clear, but the prosecution had a difficult time making the decision on Broyles’ mental state. After Dr. Rohrer completed her evaluations of Broyles, she provisionally diagnosed the defendant with major depressive disorder, with psychotic features.

“The defendant in this case does not have a present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding,” Judge Daniel said. “He does not have a factual understanding of the proceedings against him.”

Judge Daniel declared on Thursday that Broyles was incompetent to stand trial after the testimonies from the two forensic psychologists. Broyles will be transported for more evaluation and treatment for competency restoration at a Florida State Hospital.

Forensic Psychologists in Criminal Cases

Expert witnesses are often used in criminal cases as they can give helpful testimony towards their area of expertise in a trial. Forensic Psychologists can aid the defense through their training and expertise in topics surrounding psychological analysis and testing.

Like the above case, their expert testimony is helpful in cases involving human behavior as they can help prove or disprove if a person suffered or is suffering from a mental condition. Not only are Forensic Psychologists able to help the court determine if the defendant is not competent to stand trial, but they can also help in the consideration of whether the defendant was legally insane when the crime occurred.

Some of the criminal cases that a Forensic Psychologist can testify as an expert witness involve the following:

  • Criminal Competency
  • Insanity
  • Sentencing Mitigation
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Child Abuse
  • Death Penalty
  • Battered Person Syndrome

To learn more about Forensic Psychologists and their role in criminal proceedings read our informative blog here.

Incompetent to Stand Trial in Florida

The court can declare that a defendant is incompetent to stand trial if they believe the defendant has some sort of mental illness or mental defect preventing them from realizing the consequences of their actions.

Under Florida Statute section 916.12, mental incompetence is defined as when a defendant does not have the sufficient present ability to consult with his or her lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding or if the defendant has no rational, as well as factual, understanding of the proceedings against them.

If there is reason to believe that the defendant is incompetent, there is typically an expert witness within the field of psychology or psychiatry that will evaluate the defendant. When considering the competency of a defendant, the evaluating expert may decide if the defendant can complete the following abilities in their report:

  • Realize and appreciate the accusations or charges against the defendant;
  • Appreciate the range and nature of the possible penalties from the criminal charge;
  • Understand the adversarial nature of the legal process;
  • Disclose facts pertinent to the proceedings at issue to the council;
  • Manifest appropriate courtroom behavior;
  • Testify relevantly.

Despite what some may think, being deemed incompetent does not mean that all the charges are dropped against the defendant. If the defendant is deemed incompetent, they will be sent for treatment—usually being committed to psychiatric care—for an extended period of time.

The defendant will be cared for at a facility and re-evaluated several times in the year. If it is believed that the defendant is competent after a period of time, they would go back to trial for the charges. However, if the defendant is deemed likely to never reach competency, then the charges may be dismissed. This also means that it is likely that the defendant will remain in in-patient care for an extended period using a civil commitment procedure.

To find out more about incompetency and going to trial, read our informative page on everything you need to know about incompetency to stand trial.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, prioritize finding a skilled defense attorney near you. A Tallahassee criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense for your case, and work with getting expert witnesses to evaluate your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients across the state of Florida for various criminal charges. Contact us today for more information and a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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