WBTV.com reported that a judge denied the man who killed two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers in 2007 his final appeal Thursday.
Demeatrius Montgomery shot CMPD Officers Jeff Shelton and Sean Clark in the late evening hours of March 31, 2007.
Attorneys for convicted cop killer Demeatrius Montgomery, arguing that their client was suffering from mental illness and incompetent to stand trial in 2010, sought to get his murder convictions overturned.
Montgomery, now 30, was convicted in September 2010 of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive life prison terms. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officers Jeff Shelton, 35, and Sean Clark, 34, both were shot in the head in 2007 at the Timber Ridge Apartments in east Charlotte.
Montgomery's new attorneys argue in court documents that Judge Forrest Bridges erred in ruling that Montgomery was competent to stand trial. Montgomery's trial lawyers had told the judge that their client would not talk to them and help in his defense.
"Mr. Montgomery's failure to communicate was the irrational byproduct of his mental illness, which rendered him unable to rationally and reasonably assist in his own defense," Hughes and DeSimone argue in the court documents.
But Babb argues in court papers that the trial judge properly ruled Montgomery competent to stand trial. "None of his rights were violated," he wrote.
A year before the trial, Superior Court Judge Albert Diaz rejected Montgomery's attempt to be declared incompetent.
The defense had two psychiatrists and a psychologist who testified that Montgomery probably suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is incompetent to stand trial because he can't assist in his defense.
But Assistant District Attorney Beth Greene told the judge that Montgomery had made 639 telephone calls from the jail during the first year after his arrest. Prosecutors had more than 26 hours of the murder suspect's tape-recorded conversations.
Diaz, in his order declaring Montgomery competent, wrote, "I believe that defendant can assist in his defense in a rational or reasonable manner, but is simply choosing not to."
During the trial, after defense lawyers told Bridges that they would not put on any evidence, the judge asked Montgomery whether he wanted to testify. Montgomery did not respond to the judge.
"Let the record show that throughout this questioning the defendant has stood in the courtroom but has made no response, a practice that he has followed throughout this entire trial," the judge said.
The judge then noted that Montgomery's "silence during these proceedings has been an intentional choice by this defendant for whatever purpose and has not been due to any physical or mental inability by this defendant to communicate with this court but has been a result of his conscious decision not to do so."
Officers' widows testified
Montgomery's new attorneys also contend that the trial judge should not have allowed the slain officers' widows to testify about their husbands' good characters. Clark's widow told jurors that her husband had "the biggest heart of anybody that I've ever met." Shelton's widow testified that her husband "just wanted to always help people and do things for them."
The widows' testimony, Montgomery's attorneys argue, was irrelevant and inadmissible. They pointed out that Montgomery's defense lawyers had not presented any evidence during the trial challenging the dead officers' character or asserted that the officers had been the aggressors.
The widows' testimony, Hughes and DeSimone argue, undermined the fairness of the trial. The jurors' findings of premeditation, deliberation and intent to kill, the defense attorneys say, were tainted by the widows' testimony.
"The state's deliberate use of this inadmissible evidence served only to create sympathy for the alleged victims and to excite prejudice against Mr. Montgomery," the defense attorneys claim.
Babb disputes the defense arguments. There was no possibility of different verdicts had the widows not testified, he argues. Prosecutors called more than 70 witnesses during the trial, he pointed out.
"There was overwhelming evidence of defendant's guilt," Babb wrote. "The defendant received a fair trial. The defendant's assignments of error are without merit, and the Court should uphold the jury's verdict and trial court's rulings."