WINCHESTER -- A judge has ordered Justin Shane Slater to undergo a mental evaluation to determine his competency to stand trial on several charges, including capital murder.
Slater appeared in Frederick County Circuit Court on Tuesday for a hearing on motions filed by his attorneys, Joseph Flood and public defender Timothy Coyne.
Slater, 24, formerly of Buffalo Trail, Shawneeland, is charged with one count each of capital murder in Frederick and Clarke counties for the June 10 deaths of his brother, Gregory Scott Slater Jr., 28, and ex-girlfriend, Kayleigh Marie Plamondon, 22, of White Post. His indictments in both localities indicate capital murder of two people within three years of each death.
The maximum penalty for capital murder in Virginia is death. His Frederick County trial is scheduled for Dec. 2-4.
But Slater's defense counsel argued in a motion filed with the court and heard Tuesday that their client isn't competent to stand trial and should receive, under the law, treatment to try to restore his competency. They based their argument on observations by a doctor hired by the defense to examine their client, their own experiences in working with Slater, as well as those of employees at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.
In their motion, Slater's attorneys state their client is "actively psychotic" and cannot participate in the case proceedings nor aid in his own defense.
Frederick County Commonwealth's Attorney Glenn Williamson objected to the court making any finding of competency to stand trial now based on information the defense cited from the doctor hired by Slater's counsel. Williamson asked that any such evaluation be performed by an independent doctor and suggested Dr. David Rawls.
"I'm not going to declare him anything at this time," Prosser said, adding that information in the defense motion "raised a red flag justifying an evaluation, so I will order an evaluation."
Frederick County authorities also have charged Slater with first-degree murder and a related firearm offense in the death of his brother. A Clarke County grand jury on July 20 indicted Slater for a firearm charge as well as breaking and entering into a home at night with the intent to commit murder and credit card theft.
Virginia code prefers any mental evaluation be done in an in-patient manner at whatever facility is holding the defendant, according to attorneys on both sides. Slater also could be evaluated through an outpatient service. Both sides agreed that Slater could be evaluated at the regional jail by Rawls, a private doctor also affiliated with Western State Hospital, a facility run by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
Flood, a former capital defense attorney in the Northern Virginia area now in private practice, said outside the courtroom that it's not uncommon for attorneys in such cases to file motions to determine client competency.
But Slater's legal team has not filed any motion seeking a determination of his competency at the time of the two deaths.
The defendant must be competent not only to stand trial but also to help with his own defense and participate in the proceeding before his counsel can examine his competency at the time of the alleged crimes, Flood explained.
"One step at a time," Coyne said.
Also at the hearing, Prosser appointed Flood and Coyne to represent Slater on his charges in Clarke County. Commonwealth's Attorney Suzanne "Suni" Perka is serving as co-prosecutor in the cases because the two deaths are connected in time and location.
Slater is scheduled to appear in Clarke County Circuit Court on Sept. 14 where Judge John Wetsel Jr. will oversee further proceedings in the case.
Prosser also set a tentative trial for Dec. 9-11 for Slater's charges in Clarke County.
The defense has not filed similar motions in the Clarke County cases.
Family members of both the defendant and Plamondon also appeared at the hearing, but would not comment to the media on the proceedings.