Meridian Star

January 7, 2013

Motion: Smith not fit for trial

The Associated Press
Associated Press

GREENWOOD, Miss. — GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Lawyers for Dr. Arnold Smith say he is severely mentally ill and should be hospitalized so he can get better.

The Greenwood Commonwealth reports (http://bit.ly/UCUksm ) that Smith's legal team filed in Leflore County Circuit Court a statement from a psychologist who found Smith, 70, is unable to adequately defend himself against charges in an alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Judge Breland Hilburn took under advisement this past week a motion from the defense to send Smith to a mental health hospital for treatment and a motion from prosecutors to have Smith examined by doctors at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield.

Smith is charged with murder as the alleged instigator of a plot that ended with the death of gunman Keaira Byrd and the serious wounding Derrick Lacy. Byrd allegedly had been hired to kill attorney Lee Abraham, who represented Smith's ex-wife in their divorce years ago.

Smith's attorney, William Bell of Ridgeland, included in his motion filed last month a letter from Dr. Gilbert S. Macvaugh III of Greenville who met with Smith on five occasions between July and November to administer psychological testing.

"It is my opinion to a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that Dr. Smith suffers from a major mental disease," Macvaugh writes in the letter.

Macvaugh said Smith "lacks sufficient present ability to consult with his attorneys with a reasonable degree of rational understanding in the preparation of a defense, and that he lacks a rational understanding of the nature and object of the legal proceedings against him."

Smith is charged with capital murder in the death of Byrd, who was shot by an investigator with the attorney general's office. Abraham had contacted the attorney general's office. Smith has also been charged with two counts of conspiring to murder Abraham.

Smith has been held without bail since his arrest April 29, the morning following gunfire at Abraham's law office.

Smith's trial is scheduled for Feb. 4.

Hilburn also took under advisement other defense motions.

Hilburn ordered a separate trial for Lacy, set for April 22. Lacy is charged with capital murder in Byrd's death and conspiring with Smith to kill Abraham.

Smith is scheduled to appear in federal court Jan. 17 for a hearing in which he is seeking to block the capital murder charge.