By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: July 24, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
One year after murder, case remains marred in hearings
DINWIDDIE – A hearing has been scheduled for this week in the case of the murder of a Dinwiddie County teenager at the hands of a relative following efforts to have to competency of the suspect reviewed by medical professionals.
According to court records, prosecutors and legal representatives for Anton Coleman are scheduled to return to Dinwiddie County Circuit Court on Friday, July 26 for a pre-trial hearing after an earlier review set for July 16 was carried over to this week. Last week, it was expected that a mental evaluation report would be submitted to the court that would determine if Coleman is competent to stand trial.
The mental evaluation comes nearly a year to the day of Coleman’s indictment of first-degree murder following the June 2018 murder of Dinwiddie teenager Ke’Asia Adkins. The well-liked cheerleader was reported missing on June 25 when she failed to show up for practice at Dinwiddie High School. Within hours, the community rallied around her family, conducting searches and holding prayer vigils with the hope of bringing her home safe.
Days later, Adkins’ body was found near her home just off U.S. Route 1 in Dinwiddie, bringing her search to a tragic end and leading to the arrest of Coleman, a relative of the teenager.
Around the start of the year, Dinwiddie County’s lead prosecutor Ann Cabell Baskervill said she did not intent to pursue the death penalty against Coleman with a grand jury finding there was sufficient evidence to move forward with the capital murder charges against Coleman.
Since the grand jury having issued indictments in the case in January, the case has been tied up in a number of hearings and continuances that have resulted in a trial date not being set in the case as of yet. The latest hearing earlier this Spring saw Coleman’s defense team request their client undergo a mental evaluation, which state law allows, specifically Va. Code 19.2-169.1.
As detailed in that section, if a defendant’s attorney, or even an attorney for the Commonwealth, believes “that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant … lacks substantial capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist his attorney in his own defense,” the presiding court must order a competency evaluation that is conducted by at least one psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.
Baskervill was unavailable for comment ahead of this week’s hearing but, last month, she told The Dinwiddie Monitor that Coleman was evaluated “while he was at the jail,” referring to Meherrin River Regional Jail, where he has been housed since his arrest over a year ago.
“Dr. Stejskal submitted a report concluding that a hospital-based evaluation is needed to reliably reach an opinion as to the defendant’s competency,” she explained, noting that finding would mean Coleman would have to be transferred to Central State Hospital “so his competency can be evaluated in that inpatient hospital setting.”
She added, Coleman’s representatives sought to have the court appoint a second doctor to conduct a second outpatient evaluation, which Baskervill said she argued against, saying that their request was not consistent with the Commonwealth’s laws on the matter.
The county’s lead prosecutor sought to have Coleman transferred to Central State Hospital in Northeast Dinwiddie County to allow for an evaluation in an in-patient setting by court order but, according to Baskervill said “the defense attorneys declined to sign it” initially.
A follow-up letter by Judge Paul Cella directed Coleman’s legal representatives to sign the order, which allowed for his evaluation by Central State Hospital psychologists. According to court documents, the medical professionals evaluating Coleman was expected to provide findings of “the defendant’s capacity to understand the proceedings against him, his ability to assist his attorney, and his need for treatment in the event that he is found to be incompetent.”
An important aspect of this evaluation is the revelation that the report will not include any discussions or details of the June 2018 murder, which the court order explicitly stating, “No statements of the defendant relating to the time period of the alleged offense shall be included in the report.”
This entire report was supposed to be presented during last week’s review date but, according to court records, the matter has been carried over, meaning it will likely be presented during this week’s pre-trial hearing but, it is unknown when a trial date would be set.
“When the defendant is deemed to be competent to stand trial, that is when we will be able to set a trial date,” Baskervill said in earlier conversations with The Dinwiddie Monitor, adding, when asked how long a trial involving a case of this magnitude could take, it is hard to forecast exactly how long a trial could last.
“Based on the Commonwealth’s evidence and other circumstances of the case, I would suggest two weeks – but especially on capital murder cases, you never know,” Baskervill told The Monitor last month. “The successful prosecution of Russell Brown for capital murder of Trooper Walker in 2016 involved a four-week trial.”
“Capital murder is the most serious charge under Virginia law, and I am not willing to take that charge lightly,” Baskervill said earlier this year after capital murder indictments were granted by the grand jury. “We needed to get all open analyses in, and we needed to continue to gather evidence, and we / I needed to seriously ponder the case, on behalf of the community.”
With the death penalty off the table, should the case advance to the trail phase based on the mental evaluation’s findings, Coleman faces life in prison for the murder of Ke’Asia Adkins.