GALLIPOLIS — The Common Pleas Court of Gallia County recently found that a Gallia County man accused of shooting and critically wounding a Gallipolis Police Officer last year should be psychologically evaluated to determine if he is fit to stand trial.
Cole C. Miller, 29, Gallipolis, stands accused of attempted aggravated murder, three counts of felonious assault, one count of obstructing official business and one count of resisting arrest following the events of September 24, 2012.
Miller was arrested during the early morning hours of September 24 after he fired upon police officers who had responded to his residence on McCormick Road in reference to a neighbor dispute.
Reportedly, Miller had confronted a neighbor, and, prior to the arrival of officers, had shot a car belonging to his neighbor.
As Gallia County Sheriff’s Deputies had been dispatched to the southern end of the county on a meth-lab related incident earlier that night, Gallipolis City Police Officers were requested to respond to the scene, which is located just outside the city limits.
Miller, who allegedly refused to exit his residence, fired shots at two city police officers and one sheriff’s deputy who arrived on scene shortly after the city police officers.
Patrolman Jamie Bartels of the Gallipolis Police Department was wounded during the incident, receiving a gunshot wound in the arm, and was transported to the Holzer Medical Center Emergency Room and, later, to Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, W.Va., where he remained for several weeks for extensive surgeries.
Following the shooting, Miller surrendered to the officers and was taken into custody without incident.
A case against the defendant was later brought before a grand jury, and an indictment was handed down specifying six charges, including attempted aggravated murder and three counts of felonious assault for causing or attempting to cause physical harm to three peace officers.
Miller pleaded not guilty to these charges in October, and his bond was set at $1 million, 10 percent. He is currently being held in the Southeastern Regional Jail in Nelsonville, Ohio.
A journal entry filed with the clerk of courts on Wednesday and signed by Common Pleas Judge D. Dean Evans states that, “the Court, upon review, finds that the Defendant should be evaluated and that an official hearing is not now necessary.”
A motion filed by Miller’s defense attorney, William Eachus, in November outlines the defense’s reasoning behind their motion for a psychological exam.
The memorandum in support attached to the motion states that the defendant’s mother has reported to counsel that her son was diagnosed with a learning disability and Attention Deficit Disorder at a young age. It also states that, “following a deployment to Iraq with the U.S. Marines, Defendant received counseling in San Diego, CA.” and that, “since his return to civilian live, the Defendant has had problems focusing and has reported that his mind is ‘racing’, that he ‘can’t slow it down,’ and that he hasn’t been sleeping, and that he wakes up violently.”
The motion further reports that, prior to his incarceration, the defendant had been awaiting results of testing from the VA Clinic in Huntington, W.Va., for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that the defendant had been seen at Woodland Centers a few days prior to the incident in September, as he had threatened suicide.
The defendant also reportedly had been issued prescriptions for Ambien and Ativan, according to the memorandum, and had admitted to overdosing on both of those medications on the night of the incident and was taken to the emergency room for this overdose prior to his incarceration.
“Counsel is obligated to zealously and effectively assist his client,” the memorandum reads. “Counsel must ensure that the Defendant is competent to stand trial by having the ability to understand the nature of the charges against him and by having the ability to aid in his own defense. The Defendant’s competency not only affects his competency to stand trial but also the Defendant’s ability to understand and communicate with counsel in negotiating a resolution prior to trial. Based on the historical factors specific to this Defendant and counsel’s interactions with him, counsel must ensure that the Defendant is able to understand the nature of the proceedings and that he has the psychological ability to make the important decisions required of him.”
The memorandum also states that, while the attorney for the defendant is not a psychologist, his “apparent mental illness” does limit his ability to take part in his own defense.
“The evaluation will ensure that the Defendant’s decision regarding a plea or to go forward with a trial is constitutional,” the entry states. “If the Defendant is denied the right to fully consider a plea agreement and is found guilty by a jury without first having his psychological condition evaluated to determine his competency to stand trial or his competency to enter a plea agreement, the Defendant’s constitutional rights would be violated.”
A response to the defendant’s motion for a psychological exam filed on December 7 by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Eric Mulford urges the court to overrule the motion to the extent that the defendant seek a psychological examination at the expense of the state.
“Here, Defendant has retained counsel, there has been no showing of indigency, and Ohio Revised Code Section 2945.371 indicates that a trial court may order an evaluation, but does not require that the same be at the state’s expense. Defendant has the option of obtaining a psychological evaluation at his own expense and raising the issue of competency if he so desires.”
Subsequently, the court scheduled a hearing on all the pending motions in this case for February 8. This hearing was later continued to Monday, March 4.
During Monday’s status conference, the journal entry states that the defendant presented various documents concerning his competency to stand trial, and, after review, the court found that the defendant should be psychologically evaluated.
The court further ordered that the Forensic Diagnostic Center of District Nine, a certified forensic center designated by the Department of Mental Health, examine the defendant to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.
According to the journal entry, the examiner’s report will contain his or her opinion as to whether the defendant is “capable of understanding the nature and objective of the proceedings against him and capable of presently assisting in his defense.”
Further, the entry states, “if it is the examiner’s opinion that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial, he shall also state in his report his opinion on the likelihood of the Defendant becoming competent to stand trial within the time period allotted by law.”
The examination will be conducted at the Gallia County Jail, according to the entry.