By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 28, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
Coleman transferred to Central State as experts evaluate defendant’s competency
DINWIDDIE – The man facing capital murder charges in connection with the abduction and murder of a Dinwiddie High School student has been transferred to Central State Hospital after his defense team has raised questions about his competency to stand trial, nearly a year after the slaying of the teenage girl.
In an interview, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill confirmed the action after the attorneys representing Anton Deonte Coleman felt their client needed to be evaluated to determine if he able to stand trial in connection with the June 2018 murder of 16-year-old Ke’Asia Adkins.
Adkins was reported missing on June 25 when she failed to show up for cheerleading practice at Dinwiddie High School. An outpouring of community support was present almost immediately after she was reported missing as dozens of people made their way across the county in an effort to bring the teenager home safe, forming search parties and hosting prayer vigils.
The search would take a tragic turn as days later, the teenager’s body was found near her U.S. Route 1 home by authorities, plunging the entire county into a state of mourning following the death of a young woman who had so much promise and a full life ahead of her.
That same day, Dinwiddie authorities arrested Coleman, initially charging him with one count of abduction before a Dinwiddie County grand jury would indict him on abduction and first-degree murder charges.
In January of this year, Baskervill confirmed her office does not intend to seek the death penalty as a Dinwiddie grand jury felt there was sufficient evidence to move forward with capital murder charges against Coleman. Over the last several months, the case has been involved in a number of hearings but, no trial date has been set, which the commonwealth attorney reiterated in an interview, noting the defendant’s competency plays a key role in determining if and when this case moves into the trial phase.
According to Virginia State Law, specifically Va. Code 19.2-169.1, 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 said Dr. William Stejskal evaluated Coleman’s competency to stand trial “while he was at the jail,” referring to Meherrin River Regional Jail, where he had been held since his arrest in the summer of 2018.
“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.” According to the commonwealth attorney, Coleman’s attorney sought to move in a different direction, “asking instead for the Court to appoint a second specific doctor to do a second outpatient evaluation,” something she objected, arguing that the proposal by the defense is not consistent with what Virginia law directs.
Efforts to move forward with transferring Coleman to Central State Hospital date back to the mid-Spring after Baskervill drafted a court order in line with Judge Paul Cella’s request of an inpatient evaluation of the suspect but, according to the commonwealth attorney, “the defense attorneys declined to sign it.”
A later letter from Judge Cella directed them to sign the order, allowing for Coleman to be evaluated by psychologists while being housed at Central State Hospital. According to a copy of the order, through a report expected to be submitted to the court later this summer, those evaluating Coleman are expected to provide their 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.”
Not expected to be part of this report is any discussion or details of the June 2018 murder as the order notes explicitly, “No statements of the defendant relating to the time period of the alleged offense shall be included in the report.”
According to Baskervill, a hearing is scheduled for July 17 to review the status of the competency evaluation report, noting that report will, again, determine the course of action by the Commonwealth.
“When the defendant is deemed to be competent to stand trial, that is when we will be able to set a trial date,” she said, adding, if that trial were to occur, it can be a challenge to forecast exactly how long that trial would 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 explained. “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.”
She continued, “In addition to the gravity of the charge to lodge against a defendant, a capital murder case can make for a grueling trial and trial process, including pre-trial litigation. That, too, is part of what I don’t take lightly. It should be, and was and is here, a charge resulting only from a very deliberative, thoughtful, well-considered evaluation.”
Should the case move forward and head to trial, contingent on the findings of evaluators, Coleman faces life in prison in connection with the murder of Ke’Asia Adkins.