ST. GEORGE – The mental status of a LaVerkin teenager charged with murder remains in question as news of conflicting competency evaluations was announced in 5th District Court Thursday morning. The announcement was a surprise to both the prosecution and the defense, which have yet to receive copies of the latest evaluation.
The mental competence of Joshua David Canfield, 18, who is accused of killing 58-year-old Toquerville resident Geraldine Bommerito in March, was originally questioned by Aric Cramer, Canfield’s attorney. A motion for competency evaluations was filed and subsequently approved in August.
State law requires that two mental health experts establish the mental competency or incompetency of a defendant.
In a Dec. 4 review hearing, Judge John Walton said the court had received one of the needed competency reports. It was also noted that the second evaluation had been completed, but had yet to be submitted to the court.
Walton announced in the Dec. 18 hearing that the court had received the second evaluation, which both surprised and annoyed Cramer’s partner, Edward Flint, who now acts as Canfield’s attorney. Moreover, attorneys on both sides of the case learned the reports conflict with each other.
“We have two competency reports,” Flint said, “One says competent, the other not competent. The judge has the reports. Neither (Deputy Washington County Attorney Zachary Weiland) nor myself have seen those reports. How the hell am I suppose to figure out if my client is competent, or if the doctors who did the evaluations and reports … know what they are doing? Did they screw up?”
During the hearing, both Weiland and Flint approached the bench and quietly spoke with Walton for a period of time about the situation before court proceedings resumed. Canfield was also present at the hearing. Unlike previous court appearances where he appeared agitated and caused minor disruptions, Canfield was quiet and composed.
An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for Jan. 30.
Flint and Weiland said it’s unlikely the court will order a third competency evaluation. Instead, both sides will base their arguments around the existing reports.
“We’re going to argue it to the judge based on those two (reports), and then anything we do privately,” Flint said, adding the defense has hired a mental health expert who will be reviewing Canfield’s case.
“We do have a private guy who was lined up anyway … not so much for the competency issue, but he can evaluate Canfield,” Flint said. “He is more to look at diminished capacity and possible insanity, something that is rare in Utah.”
Though the case is moving forward a little at a time, Flint said he and his client are frustrated with how long the process was taking. Individuals like his client “that clearly have mental health issues” are locked away and not always treated well. In the mean time, their families and the victim’s families are left in limbo while things seemingly putter along. All the while, the case isn’t getting resolved, he said.
“I’m not happy about it,” Flint said.
As for the competency reports and why it took so long for the court to receive them, Flint said there have been other cases where competency issues were answered one way or another in the months following Canfield’s own arrest.
“Why did it take so long? I don’t know. Somebody at the (Utah) State Hospital needs to answer that question because they sure as hell haven’t answered it adequately for me,” Flint said.
Canfield allegedly killed Geraldine Bommerito during a residential burglary on March 19. According to court records, he allegedly stole Bommerito’s car, two guns, and some collectable coins which he later used at a gas station in Washington City. The action raised suspicion and police were contacted about the incident. Authorities were given a description of the car Canfield was driving, and that led them to Bommerito’s home.
Police tracked the car and Canfield to Springdale. The car had been abandoned and torched near the resort town. Canfield was found and was allegedly combative with officers when taken into custody. At one point he attempted to harm himself and was placed on suicide watch for a time after being delivered to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Canfield has been charged with nine felonies and three misdemeanors in relation to the case.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
- Court waits on competency evaluation in Toquerville murder case
- 60 more days with mental evaluation for defendant in Toquerville homicide; state is ready
- 18-year-old accused of murdering Toquerville woman makes court appearance
- Teen arrested, faces criminal charges in Toquerville homicide
- Juvenile taken into custody in Toquerville homicide investigation
- Homicide victim’s name released, juvenile named as suspect
- Additional information released on teen murder suspect
Email: [email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.