LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The trial of a man accused of killing an Arkansas television anchorwoman will not be delayed over defense claims that he may have mental disabilities, a judge ruled Friday.
That ruling eliminated the last potential delay for the scheduled Nov. 2 capital murder trial facing Curtis Lavelle Vance, the Marianna man accused of killing KATV personality Anne Pressly.
Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza cited Vance's statements to police and his own pretrial testimony as signs that Vance had sufficient mental capability to stand trial for the October 2008 slaying.
"His conduct in court, his conversations in court ... (show Vance) does not have mental retardation," the judge said.
However, Piazza said he would allow Vance's public defenders to raise the issue again during sentencing if he is convicted. Though Vance's IQ tested at 75, nearing clinical definitions of mentally retarded, his lawyers argued Friday that the results may skew lower. That could spare Vance a death sentence if convicted, as state law prohibits the execution of inmates with IQs of 65 and below.
As Vance entered court Friday, a reporter asked if he had any mental disabilities. He replied: "I think I'm pretty smart, what do you all think?"
He faces residential burglary, rape and theft charges in Pressly's slaying. He has pleaded not guilty.
Defense lawyers had their first chance Friday to cross-examine Stacy M. McBain, the forensic psychiatry fellow at the Arkansas State Hospital who conducted two interviews with Vance. Vance refused to cooperate with McBain on May 27, but took part in an examination on Sept. 14 as part of trial preparations over a rape in Marianna that he also is charged with.
"He said he didn't want to be at the State Hospital," McBain said. "He said it put him in a bad light."
McBain said she didn't conduct an IQ test on Vance after learning his defense team already did one and found no signs of mental disabilities. Though Vance did not hold down a full-time job and never made a home of his own, McBain said that came from his own free will, rather than a mental inability to handle that responsibility.
But McBain faltered under questioning by lead defense lawyer Katherine Streett, admitting that she had not yet gotten a forensic psychiatry certificate when she spoke with Vance the first time. She also acknowledged that her report on Vance did not include any mention of him saying he preferred earning money through crime rather than a full-time job. Her report claimed Vance told her working in fast-food restaurants overwhelmed him.
McBain later said she did not seek any other records about Vance except what the police had and what he told her, though some patients with mental disabilities cannot be trusted to tell the truth. However, she stood by her report.
"There's nothing that would change my opinion," said McBain, who left the stand visibly shaken.
Defense lawyers also asked Piazza to redact parts of Vance's statements to police over concerns that they unfairly brought up his criminal history. Piazza agreed to excise portions involving when Vance asked for a lawyer and talked about marijuana, but left many other parts in — including when he allegedly told police that stealing laptops from rich homes was his "M.O."
Police say Vance picked Pressly's house at random on Oct. 20, 2008, and left her mortally wounded after she fought back when he raped her. She died five days later without regaining consciousness. DNA collected at Pressly's home later matched samples taken from a rape in Marianna, and detectives focused on Vance, who had been seen loitering around burglarized homes.