Christopher Calmer, who is accused of murder and could face the death penalty in the September 2014 slaying of Monroe County sheriff’s deputy Michael Norris, will have a competency hearing in late July.
Calmer, a 48-year-old former computer technology worker, was quiet during a brief Friday morning court appearance here. Judge Tommy Wilson set a July 25 competency hearing, which will be in neighboring Thomaston in Upson County.
Calmer’s lawyers contend he is physically and mentally incompetent for the death penalty case against him to proceed.
At recent proceedings, Calmer who has complained of chronic and debilitating back and neck pain, has moaned and interrupted.
Friday, during a half-hour hearing, he showed no outward signs of pain. A new recliner that had been brought in for Calmer to sit in at a hearing last month was not there. He sat in a wooden chair between his two attorneys and at one point poured himself a cup of water.
His death penalty trial is set to begin in June 2017.
Norris was shot and killed when he answered a suicidal-person call at Calmer’s house outside Bolingbroke the evening of Sept. 13, 2014.
People at the scene soon after the shooting have said Calmer was wailing, saying things such as, “Shoot me. Put me out of my misery. I can’t stand the pain any longer.”
That Calmer’s competency to stand trial has become an issue is no surprise to courtroom observers. His attorneys have appeared to be, in the long run at least, laying the groundwork for an insanity defense.
However, the issue in the July hearing will not be whether he was delusional or knew right from wrong when he allegedly killed Norris.
The hearing in July will seek to determine whether Calmer can comprehend the proceedings at hand and is, say, capable of helping his attorneys defend him.
The burden to prove that he is incapable or that he does not have a grasp of what is happening in court lies with the defense.
The July proceeding will essentially be a battle of experts, psychologists and the like, offering their opinions on Calmer’s competence.
If Calmer is deemed incompetent by a 12-person Upson County jury, that would not dismiss the case. But it would put matters on hold.
Calmer likely would be admitted to a state hospital for evaluation — typically 180 days — until he is deemed fit to go on trial.
If he still wasn’t competent after that, he would in all likelihood remain in the hospital, and there would be hearings held every year or so to revisit his competency.