By RONNIE ELLIS
Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine ruled Monday that former state Rep. Steve Nunn is competent to stand trial for murder in the death of his former fiancée, Amanda Ross.
The ruling was based on the testimony of Dr. Amy Trivette, a psychiatrist with the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center at LaGrange, who evaluated Nunn’s mental state and who testified Monday by phone.
“It is my opinion, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that Mr. Nunn does have the capacity to appreciate the nature and the consequences of the proceedings against him and he does have the ability to participate rationally in his own defense,” Trivette testified.
Trivette was the only witness and Nunn’s attorneys, Warren Scoville of London and Bette Niemi, a former public advocate with experience in capital cases, did not question her. Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn questioned Trivette, asking her if Nunn understood the charges against him and did Nunn believe he could cooperate with his attorneys in his defense.
“Yes he did,” said Trivette. “He indicated he had been in touch with them and felt he was able to assist.” Trivette agreed with Nunn’s assessment and said Nunn was cooperative during the time he was under evaluation from Jan. 25 to Feb. 17.
Red Corn said a written copy of Trivette’s report had been entered and Scoville said he had “no objection to that so long as it is under seal.” Goodwine asked each side if they wished to call additional witnesses and both answered no. Goodwine then ruled Nunn competent to stand trial.
“Based upon the testimony then of Dr. Trivette, the court finds that Mr. Nunn is sufficiently coherent to provide his counsel with information necessary or relevant to constructing his defense and that he is also able to comprehend the significance of the trial, his relationship to it. He also has the ability to confer intelligently, testify coherently and to follow the evidence presented,” Goodwine said.
Red Corn indicated the prosecution plans to file a motion and Goodwine set April 16 as the deadline for that motion. Red Corn would not disclose the nature of the motion to reporters after the hearing. Scoville said he hasn’t decided whether to seek a change of venue.
Neither Red Corn nor Scoville would comment after the 30-minute hearing.
Nunn did not appear in the court room, although he was apparently in the building. Goodwine said she allows defendants to waive their right to be present at such hearings but requires they waive that right either in person or by a notarized affidavit. Scoville and Niemi briefly left the room by a side doorway and returned with a paper Scoville indicated was Nunn’s waiver and Goodwine accepted it.
Nunn, 57, is charged with the Sept. 11 shooting of the 29-year-old Ross outside her Lexington home and with violating a domestic violence protective order. Ross had previously accused Nunn of striking her several times. The DVO violation is an aggravating offense which allows the prosecution to seek the death penalty.
Goodwine began Monday’s hearing by admonishing the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office for restrictions it had imposed on some members of the media. The judge made clear that she alone establishes the rules of her courtroom and said media may photograph or film participants, “including counsel or members of the gallery.”
The only prohibition, Goodwine said, is filming jurors or juror selection proceedings.
Diana Ross, the victim’s mother, sat silently with companions in the courtroom during Monday’s hearing but left without talking to reporters.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.