Reports say Stone is not competent

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Judge Diana E. Wheeler to issue ruling May 18

By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

Whether or not an Eminence man is competent to stand trial is a decision now in the hands of a judge.

On Thursday, April 23, Henry County District Court Judge Diana E. Wheeler heard testimony in the competency hearing of Warren D. Stone. Stone, 56, of Eminence, is charged with the February 2008 murder of his mother, Maralyn Stone Burchett.

Clinical psychologist J. Robert Noonan testified during the hearing that Stone is not, and likely never will be, competent to stand trial.

Noonan, who interviewed and tested Stone in July, said that Stone’s low IQ — a 56, scoring on the low end for mild mental retardation — alone wasn’t enough to make the determination.

“I have seen people before with IQs at this level or lower who have been found competent,” Noonan said. “It’s not just the IQ score, there are people who perform poorly on an IQ test that are streetwise (and) understand the court system ... it’s not just the IQ that makes the difference, it’s the total picture.”

In this case, he added, Stone’s thoughts are disorganized and even Noonan had trouble following what Stone said. “I had to work at pinning him down on some things,” he testified. “(Stone) can jump from subject to subject and you don’t know what he’s talking about.”

Those factors combined led Noonan to his conclusion that Stone couldn’t stand trial.

“It’s my belief that he’s very naive about the courtroom,” he said. While Stone does understand the charges against him and why he was charged with murder, Noonan said that Stone is very naive about the courtroom, and would not be able to help in his own defense.

Because Stone’s retardation is long-term and chronic, and cannot be treated with medication, Noonan said there is almost no chance that Stone will ever be able to be competent to stand trial.

Stone’s attorney, Ben Coomes, introduced reports from two other exams that also found Stone unable to stand trial. Each report, including Noonan’s, were nearly identical in their findings. While that didn’t surprise Noonan, he did say it was unusual.

“I’m used to being in a court room and there be a difference of opinion,” he said. “The  correct opinion is that he is not competent. It’s not a close call.”

And more recently, an evaluation conducted at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center also found Stone incompetent to stand trial and unlikely to gain competency.

During the hearing, Coomes and Henry County Attorney Virginia Harrod handled the issue of just what becomes of Stone if he is found incapable of standing trial.

That issue has played a factor in the long delay for the competency hearing.

During his testimony, Noonan said placement in a “structured and well supervised group home for mental retardation” would be appropriate, but that Stone does not meet the requirements for involuntary hospitalization.

Stone’s recent history, primarily the beating of his mother, indicates a “moderate risk” to others, according to one report, and “an intermediate explosive disorder” and the need for psychiatric evaluation.

One report entered into evidence said that the intermediate care facility for mental retardation at Kentucky’s Central State Hospital would be the best choice “for meeting (Stone’s) needs ... while still protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth from the risk of violence (Stone) represents.”

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