Casper Man Accused of 2nd-degree Murder To Get New Mental Health Test
A Natrona County District Court Judge on Monday granted a request for a third mental evaluation for Justin Armando Marquez, accused of fatally stabbing to death a Casper man.
Judge Catherine Wilking ordered the in-patient evaluation at the Wyoming State Hospital after Marquez's attorneys filed a recent motion for it, even though two previous out-patient evaluations found he is competent to stand trial.
The new request will delay the trial for Marquez, who is charged with June 2021 second-degree murder --punishable by 20 years to life imprisonment -- of Ryan Schroeder, whose body was found two months later in the Coal Mountain Road area west of Casper.
At the Sept. 26 arraignment, which Marquez did not attend because he refused to go to court, Wilking set his five-day trial for March 20.
The delay probably will include requests for extensions of time, especially because of the long waiting period to admit someone to the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston for an in-person evaluation, Wilking said.
Public defender Valerie Schoneberger, in supporting the motion for the third evaluation, argued that Marquez is not competent to stand trial at this time.
"He understands the delays that this would cause in the case," Schoenberger said.
Wilking recalled that Marquez wanted new counsel after saying he could not cooperate with his previous public defender, and so Schoenberger was appointed.
Schoenberger said that she has had trouble communicating with him, he's not able to maintain coherent conversations, and he distrusts his attorneys. "We've tried to discuss the evidence of this case and we've not been successful at all," she said.
The causes could be a traumatic brain injury and/or the medications he takes, she added.
Likewise, Marquez has said that the jail is torturing him with high-pitched noises, she said.
Most concerning to her are the paranoid and delusional conspiracy theories he holds, such as accusing his attorneys of working with the Freemasons and the New World Order to thwart justice, Schoenberger said.
State Public Defender Diane Lozano, speaking to the court by videoconference, said she has had some communication with Marquez through letters and conversations,
Lozano agreed with Schoenberger's request for an in-patient evaluation because his concerns about his attorneys are not rational.
"I believe he has a fundamental lack of understanding the role of counsel," Lozano said. "His beliefs are not based in reality."
Two previous evaluations determined that Marquez was competent to stand trial, and Wilking wanted to know what changed to warrant a third one.
Lozano responded that Marquez needs an in-patient setting in which he can be observed over a period of time, and not just a two-and-a-hour evaluation in a jail.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri objected to the new motion and the need for a third evaluation.
The last evaluation was in June and no one objected to the finding that Marquez was competent to stand trial, nor was there any mention that he was hearing noises and voices in his head in the jail, Taheri said.
"He has chosen not to cooperate with counsel," he said, adding that he will come back after a third evaluation and still not be cooperative.
Wilking said it was important for her to trust Marquez's defense team.
State law also requires that justice be done, even if it causes a delay in this case, she said.
"I believe the court will need to order the in-patient evaluation," Wilking said.