Mental evaluation sought days before capital murder trial begins
FORT SMITH — The attorney for a man scheduled to go on trial in 10 days on a capital murder charge in Van Buren is asking for a mental evaluation of his client, saying he may not be fit to stand trial.
Robby Golden with the Arkansas Public Defender Commission filed a motion Tuesday in Crawford County Circuit Court asking Randall Lavan Jordan, 35, undergo examination by doctors to determine whether he lacks the capacity to understand the court proceedings against him or to effectively assist in his defense because of a mental disease or defect.
The motion before Circuit Judge Mike Medlock said there was reason to believe Jordan wasn’t fit to proceed to trial, but it didn’t state the reason.
Jordan’s capital murder case is scheduled to go before a jury Jan. 23. If the motion is granted, Prosecutor Marc McCune said, the trial could be delayed for two to three months until the evaluation is completed, or longer if Jordan is found mentally unfit.
According to Golden’s motion, the state will seek the death penalty against Jordan. McCune said Thursday he hadn’t made a decision on whether to seek death for Jordan and he told Golden the death penalty wasn’t off the table.
The punishments for a capital murder conviction in Arkansas are death or life in prison.
Jordan is accused of beating Larry Eugene Jones, 59, with an ax handle as he slept in his bed June 10. He died shortly after in a Fort Smith hospital.
According to police reports, Jordan had been staying at Jones’ rural Van Buren home at 5305 Grand Juniper Road. But Jones kicked Jordan out because he wouldn’t help around the house, help pay the bills or try to get a job, police said. He still had keys to the house, police said.
A woman also staying at Jones’ home told deputies she woke up about 5 a.m. June 10 to the whining of one of her dogs, police said. She could hear someone gasping for air and went to check Jones’ room, according to reports.
She told deputies she saw the shadow of someone striking downward with a large object, reports said. With each strike, Jones made a loud grunting sound, according to the reports.
Neighbors responding to calls for help found Jordan standing in the dark in the doorway to Jones’ bedroom, holding the ax handle, police said. A neighbor held Jordan at gunpoint until deputies arrived and arrested him, police said.