SARASOTA — Assistant State Attorney Lon Arend’s use of the term “catatonic-like behavior” Tuesday afternoon triggered the need for a competency evaluation of convicted murderer Michael King by two doctors, and halted the penalty phase of his trial Wednesday.
Twelfth Circuit Judge Deno Economou excused jurors Wednesday. He ordered them to return at 10 a.m. today after King’s competency hearing at 8:30 a.m.
Last week, King, 38, was found guilty of the kidnapping, rape and murder of Denise Amber Lee on Jan. 17, 2008. Lee, 21, was a North Port mother of two young sons.
Two independent doctors, Eddy Regnier and Gregory DeClue, were ordered Wednesday by Economou to test King’s competency and appear at today’s hearing, where the judge will rule on whether the penalty phase of the trial can continue.
If he’s found incompetent, a mistrial could be declared.
On Tuesday, Arend said King didn’t act like he was dazed when he was arrested. King repeatedly asked for a lawyer after telling investigators he had been kidnapped along with “the girl.” That night he was videotaped speaking to his cousin, Harold Muxlow Jr., and several investigators.
Prior to the trial, King had undergone testing and was found to be competent — but Economou said since the subject came up again Tuesday during the state’s questioning of psychiatrists, the law requires him to have King evaluated again.
“It really needs to be addressed,” Economou said. “The results of the evaluation will determine that we may or may not continue.”
One of King’s three attorneys, Carolyn Schlemmer, said King suffers from a brain injury from a sledding accident 33 years ago, when he was 6 years old. She said King had become paranoid at times, was deeply depressed, and often took risks in which he put himself in danger.