A Calhoun County judge on Tuesday barred attorneys for a man charged in a 2011 capital murder case from presenting an insanity defense at trial or presenting evidence of their client’s mental defect.
Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones said the jury at the trial of Tyrone Christopher Thompson, 35, won’t be allowed to reach a verdict of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Thompson’s trial is scheduled for Aug. 19.
Thompson was initially charged with capital murder in 2011 along with two other men in connection with the kidnapping, robbery and murder of a 29-year-old Wellborn elementary school teacher.
During a hearing Tuesday, the court heard nearly six hours of testimony from expert witnesses and psychologists Glen King and Carol Walker, who previously provided mental evaluations of Thompson; both said on the stand they had determined that Thompson had a mental defect.
However, King said, he determined that Thompson understood the nature of the offense he was charged with and was aware of the wrongfulness of his actions.
In order to give a jury the option of reaching a verdict of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, Jones said, a defendant must be proven to have a mental defect as well as a lack of understanding of the nature of the offense he or she is charged with.
District Attorney Brian McVeigh argued that any evidence of Thompson’s mental defect should not be presented to a jury because he does not meet both requirements for an insanity defense.
One of Thompson’s defense attorneys, Warren Freeman, argued that not letting the jury know that Thompson “has the mind of a child” would be negligent.
While testifying, Walker said the fourth-edition Weschler IQ test she administered to Thompson revealed that he had an IQ of 70. King said the Stanford-Benet IQ test he administered placed Thompson’s IQ at 56, while the Weschler test he gave revealed Thompson’s IQ was 59. Both witnesses agreed that the results of their evaluations were consistent with each other.
Both witnesses said Thompson’s intellectual disability could make him gullible and easy for others to manipulate. Neither of the witnesses said they noticed any signs of malingering — or falsely giving incorrect answers for personal gain — during the evaluations.
Jones ruled in January that Thompson was ineligible for the death penalty due to his mental defect. In May, Jones prohibited prosecutors and defense attorneys from speaking to the media or the public about the case.
Thompson is the third person to be charged with the teacher’s death. Nicholas Smith, 30, and Jovon Gaston, 30, were both charged in April 2011, weeks after Kevin Thompson’s body was found.
Police told The Star in 2011 the three had kidnapped Kevin Thompson from his Jacksonville apartment, forced him to withdraw money from ATMs in Jacksonville and Anniston, drove his car to Cherokee County, killed him and left his body on the side of U.S. 278.
Smith was was convicted and sentenced to death in 2015, and Gaston received the same sentence in 2015. The state Court of Criminal Appeals in 2018 ordered new sentencing hearings for both because, the appeals judges decided, juries should not have heard Kevin Thompson’s family members calling for the death penalty at their original hearings.
Thompson remained Tuesday in the Calhoun County Jail without bond.