Ruling: No LeGrande execution

Guy LeGrande, on death row 12 years for murdering a Stanly County woman, is too mentally ill to be put to death, a superior court judge has ruled.

In a Friday ruling received Tuesday by LeGrande's attorneys, Judge Robert Bell cited LeGrande's “severe mental illness” in declaring him incompetent to be executed. N.C. law allows the execution of the mentally ill, but only if the defendant is considered competent.

LeGrande, 49, was sentenced to death for the 1993 shotgun murder of 26-year-old Ellen Munford. Munford's estranged husband, Tommy, hired LeGrande to kill her, court records say. Munford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

LeGrande was allowed to represent himself at his murder trial.

He wore a Superman T-shirt to court daily, cursed jurors and encouraged them to “pull the damn switch and shake that groove thing.”

“It's very clear that his mental illness has affected this entire case from the beginning until today,” Durham attorney Jay Ferguson said Tuesday. Ferguson, along with James Monroe, has represented LeGrande in post-trial motions. “I'm not sure he'll ever understand what the ruling means, because he has thought he was going to be pardoned,” Ferguson said.

N.C. attorney general Roy Cooper's office had not received a copy of the judge's ruling Tuesday, said spokeswoman Noelle Talley. “We plan to review the ruling,” she said.

In 2006, Bell granted LeGrande a stay just days before he was to be executed, and three psychiatrists then evaluated him by examining medical records, evidence, and a judge-ordered taping of his prison cell. LeGrande had spoken with one psychiatrist 10 years before, then refused all later attempts to be examined.

In his most recent ruling, Bell said that in a May 2007 competency hearing, LeGrande gave answers that “at times were completely disconnected and illogical.” LeGrande also had delusional beliefs that he would not be executed – and believed that his past and present attorneys were working for the state, the judge said.

Bell's ruling does not grant LeGrande a new trial, and he remains in prison. But Ferguson previously has filed a motion for a new trial because deals and rewards given to prosecution witnesses weren't disclosed during the initial trial.

Ferguson said Tuesday that he plans to pursue the issue of LeGrande's competence for any trial, given that he was incompetent for execution.

Munford's family and friends have said they believe LeGrande is smart enough to fake mental illness.

Said Munford's father, Jim Hinson, contacted at home Tuesday: “If he had sense enough to do what he has done, then he has sense enough to die.”