09/11/2018 - Three expert witnesses give testimony on defendant's fitness to stand trial for murder

A man accused of killing a 6-year-old girl in 2015 was back in court this week to determine if he should undergo another competency evaluation.

John Roberts, 58, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jasmine Miller. He is accused of strangling her at bransol Motel in 2015.

During a motion hearing Sept. 5 at Taney County Judicial Center, Judge Jason Brown heard three new expert witnesses say they believe Roberts is incompetent to stand trial.

"Would a reasonable judge in the same position as yourself have reason to be concerned about the defendant's competency?" Egan asked. "If the answer to that question is yes, then an exam must be ordered. I am presenting three such opinions today. Three more doctors say Mr. Roberts is not competent. All three believe he is incompetent due to his intellectual disability."

"These three doctors also believe it is unlikely that Mr. Roberts will become competent in the reasonable foreseeable future," Egan said. "That's usually referred to as permanently incompetent, which means that he will not become competent in the reasonable foreseeable future."

Roberts would have to do three things to be found competent, Egan added. Those include: "He must be able to rationally discuss with his attorney whether to plead guilty or take his case to trial; he must be able to rationally discuss with his attorney whether to have a jury trial or bench trial; he must be able to rationally discuss with his attorney whether or not to testify at trial."

All three of the witnesses agreed Roberts cannot do this.

The three witnesses were Dr. Thomas Blansett, who has more than 25 years experience in psychology, Dr. Shawn Anderson, who is the Director of Psychology for the Center for Behavioral Medicine, and Dr. Steven Mandracchia, who is the Director of Forensic Services with the Center for Behavioral Medicine.

Testimony included that Roberts does not understand the adversarial nature of the process, he thinks the prosecutor is there to help him. Objective testing shows he was not faking his condition. He has an elementary reading level between kindergarten and second grade, Egan said.

Blansett interviewed Roberts on Oct. 7, 2017 for approximately six hours and again on July 28, 2018.

Roberts' overall demeanor was one in which he didn't completely fully understand why he was there to evaluate him, Blansett said. Roberts was anxious and often strayed off task.

Blansett said he does't believe Roberts appreciates the severity of his situation.

"He still has this belief that he'll get out of Taney County Jail, and basically talk to children about the dangers of alcohol and drug use," Blansett said.

Roberts' social skills were childlike and impaired, Blansett said.

"He was trying, I think, his best to socially interact with me, but it was rather awkward and childlike in conversation," Blansett said.

Blansett administered multiple tests to Roberts.

"The purpose of these tests are to find out what kind of smarts somebody has," Blansett said.