Suspect in Tarwacki murders to undergo competency examPublished 12:37pm Wednesday, November 14, 2012
CASSOPOLIS — A Niles man accused of murdering Niles couple John and Carolyn Tarwacki in February 2010 will undergo a competency exam to determine if he is fit to stand trial before his court case proceeds.
Gregory Feldman, the court-appointed attorney of defendant Keith James Lintz, filed a motion for a forensic examination in Cass County Fourth District Court Wednesday — the day Lintz was scheduled to undergo a preliminary examination.
Judge Stacey Rentfrow granted Feldman’s motion, meaning Lintz will be referred to a forensic center, where he will remain under detention until the court receives a report on Lintz’ competency.
The process could take several months, although Rentfrow was asked if she could expedite the process by Doug Baker, special assistant prosecutor with the state attorney general’s office.
“I don’t believe I can order that … I can certainly inquire from the forensic center … see if they have protocol for putting this on a faster track,” Rentfrow said.
Lintz is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony firearms in the killing of the Tarwackis in their home on Carberry Road on Feb. 5, 2010. He is facing mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In arguing for his motion requesting a competency exam, Feldman said he is uncertain if Lintz has the ability to assist him in trial.
“It’s my job to try to look at all the available defenses for him and, when the materials and my conversations with him lead to blackouts, psychological problems and possibly related physical problems, I am unable to speak with him about assisting me in that defense,” Feldman said.
Baker described the motion as an attempt by Feldman to cover all his bases.
“I haven’t heard anything that would indicate he is incompetent as its defined in the law today and that having an examination would advance this at all,” Baker said.
In explaining her decision to grant the motion, Rentfrow said the court only had to be satisfied the defendant might be incompetent to stand trial.
“While the court does not wish to delay the proceedings,” Rentfrow said, “I also do not want to commit a prejudicial error by proceeding and the defendant being in an incompetent state.”