A man accused of killing the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair is able to participate in his own defense and is competent to stand trial, Circuit Judge Phil Patton ruled Tuesday.
William Chesher of Louisville is accused of fatally shooting Ronnie Hiser, 58, of Metcalfe County, at Hiser’s home on U.S. 68-Ky. 80 on the morning of June 4. Hiser died at a Louisville hospital less than 24 hours later, and Chesher was arrested later the same day.
Hiser’s wife, Karen, told an investigator that she had been communicating with “Bill” Chesher through Facebook “and that in recent weeks they had began having an affair,” according to a Kentucky State Police search warrant affidavit.
Patton’s finding was based on the telephone testimony of a forensic psychiatrist, Amy Trivette, at Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center, which is part of the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex at LaGrange, where Chesher spent from Sept. 23 to Nov. 1. The call was conducted in speaker mode.
Trivette said testing, conducted by a psychologist at the facility, indicated Chesher’s intelligence is in the high average range. He also has a history of substance abuse and some other mental health troubles, but Chesher did not report – nor did the staff observe – any signs of psychosis, Trivette said.
Amid the questioning, Trivette said Chesher was “very cooperative” and he was able to concentrate for lengthy periods of time.
Commonwealth’s Attorney John Gardner asked Trivette to say, without revealing what Chesher actually told her, whether Chesher was able to speak about the events leading up to the death of Ronnie Hiser and describe what happened. Trivette said Chesher had done so.
“Mr. Chesher did have the capacity to understand the criminality of the behavior,” Trivette said.
Chesher’s attorney, Greg Berry, asked Trivette how much time she spent meeting with him, and she began to describe six sessions of about 10 to 20 minutes each, adding that sometimes Chesher would have a list of complaints and other times he lost his temper quickly.
Berry attempted to interrupt her, trying to point out that such information was not part of his question. When she kept talking, he objected.
Patton also tried to stop her, but Trivette kept talking with no apparent pause as if she was not hearing the courtroom end of the phone call. Berry raised the volume of his voice and talked over her, asking at least twice for her to let him ask the questions. Trivette eventually concluded that she spent nearly four hours with Chesher.
Berry asked whether Trivette’s opinion was based solely on her direct time with the defendant. She said her opinion was based on all of the information obtained from him, “collateral information,” testing reports and staff notes regarding his behavior while he was at the facility.
After Patton ruled, Gardner said there were “hours upon hours” of recorded phone conversations between Chesher and Karen Hiser, some of which he wants to introduce as evidence. He asked for a schedule to be set for certain disclosure deadlines, such as which, if any, experts could be called to testify.
A final pretrial conference was set for 9 a.m. Feb. 25. Chesher’s trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. March 18.
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