Complaining of pain, Christopher Keith Calmer moaned and talked through more than two hours of testimony in death penalty pretrial hearings Thursday.
Calmer, who is charged with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Monroe County deputy Michael Norris and the wounding of Deputy Jeff Wilson, was taken to a Forsyth doctor’s office a couple of hours after the hearings were set to begin Thursday morning. He returned in an ambulance about 2:30 p.m. and was wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, lying down with his feet shackled.
He moaned and appeared to writhe in pain while Dr. William Taunton Jr., a Forsyth physician who treats Monroe County inmates, testified about his condition.
Taunton said although Calmer suffers from chronic neck pain, degenerative disc disease and arthritis, “this is a pain that he lives with on a daily basis.”
He testified that Calmer didn’t tell him about any “recent trauma” or a reason for his symptoms. Calmer underwent imaging tests Thursday before being returned to the courthouse.
Calmer’s lawyers petitioned the judge multiple times during Thursday’s hearings, seeking to have the proceedings postponed due to Calmer’s condition.
“His face is scrunched up in pain,” lawyer Gabrielle Amber Pittman said. “He is asserting he is still in severe pain.”
Despite Pittman’s arguments that Calmer was being deprived of medical care, Towaliga Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Tommy Wilson ruled that the hearings would continue Thursday, at least through the testimony of two witnesses who were unable to return Friday.
Multiple out-of-state witnesses are set to testify in the hearings. At least two of them are GBI agents, including former agent Charles Woodall, who resigned last year after being charged with child molestation in Bibb County.
Calmer continued to moan and grunt, nearly continuously, during the Monroe County Superior Court Clerk’s testimony pertaining to how jurors are summoned and excused from service.
Taunton testified Thursday that Calmer received multiple pain medications and muscle relaxers earlier in the day, but none would cause more than mild cognitive impact. Anyone else would be allowed to drive.
When questioned by Pittman, Taunton said he ordinarily would prescribe Calmer additional pain medication, but it could impact his cognitive function.
Multiple times Calmer and his attorneys asked to waive Calmer’s right to be present during the hearings so he could receive the medication, but the judge refused.
At one point, Calmer was wheeled out after he requested a restroom break.
After returning, this time positioned on his side, Calmer continued to talk — seemingly gibberish — to himself.
The judge admonished Calmer’s lawyers to tell him to be quiet.
Calmer responded, “I am being tortured.”
He told the judge, “You should be ashamed of yourself, man. I need medical treatment.”
Pittman again, requested a postponement. The judge refused.
“I see someone who is trying to disrupt the court intentionally,” Wilson said.
Calmer’s outbursts continued through testimony from a second witness about jury lists.
Before leaving court for the day, Pittman asked the judge to postpone Friday’s hearings, saying Calmer has a right to have his own medical expert testify and for him to have an opportunity to improve.
“This isn’t his baseline,” she said of Calmer’s medical condition.
With Friday’s testimony expected to include information about search warrants and statements Calmer is alleged to have made after the shootout, Pittman said, “we need our client to be able to participate.”
District Attorney Richard Milam, who cited Taunton’s testimony that Calmer was able to sit through the proceedings, said he thought Wilson had acted “humanely” toward Calmer and had ruled conservatively about requiring his presence in court.
“This is his regular condition,” Milam said.
Calmer shouted, “Good God, are you lying?”
Pittman argued that Calmer was deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel and again asked for a postponement, saying “he may not be medically competent to move forward.”
Wilson denied Pittman’s request but asked Monroe County Sheriff John Cary Bittick to bring a witness to court Friday morning to testify about Calmer’s medical condition in the time he’s been incarcerated awaiting trial. Calmer has been held at an undisclosed jail.
Calmer is accused of firing shots in a Sept. 13, 2014, shootout at his parents’ home near Bolingbroke, shooting Norris in the head and injuring Deputy Jeff Wilson, shooting him in the leg and buttocks. The two Monroe County deputies had been dispatched to Calmer’s parents’ home after authorities received a call that someone there was attempting suicide.
Wilson’s bulletproof vest kept another slug from entering his abdomen.
Calmer was shot in the leg during the shootout.
His trial is set for summer 2017.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.