Mental Health Delay for Trans Murder Suspect

by John Riley
Monday Oct 28, 2013

Gary Niles Montgomery, the Northeast D.C. man accused of killing transgender woman Deoni Jones in February 2012, is now undergoing a 30-day mental observation following weeks of back-and-forth arguments between Montgomery's lawyers and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia over whether Montgomery is competent to stand trial.

Since his arrest nine days after Jones's stabbing, Montgomery's level of competence has been a sticking point in the run-up to his trial on a charge of first-degree murder while armed. Montgomery's lawyers insist he is not competent to stand trial, that he does not understand the ramifications of his actions though he has twice been found competent. Those assessments were made in March 2012 and in April 2013 after testing at St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

According to the 2013 report from St. Elizabeth's, Montgomery was able to comprehend the charges against him and even demonstrated an ability to modify his legal strategy when faced with hypothetical scenarios that might arise in the course of a trial. Montgomery was diagnosed with ''Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified'' and ''Hallucinogen Abuse'' and prescribed anti-psychotic medication, but doctors and administrators at St. Elizabeth's said it was not necessary for him to stay at St. Elizabeth's and approved his placement in the D.C. Jail.

Throughout the summer and into September, Montgomery's lawyers raised concerns that their client's mental health had deteriorated since being away from St. Elizabeth's and requested that another competency hearing be held to determine his readiness to go to trial. The U.S. Attorney's Office initially submitted motions opposing Montgomery's transfer to St. Elizabeth's, but eventually relented following the results of a 24-hour forensic screening held Oct. 10.

The following day, Oct. 11, based on the results of that screening, D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin ordered Montgomery be held at St. Elizabeth's for 30 days of further psychiatric testing. Montgomery is set to appear in court Dec. 2 at which time Morin will determine whether the prosecution can move forward.

A prior status hearing, scheduled for Jan. 6, has been vacated, but Montgomery remains scheduled to go to trial on April 14, 2014, if he is once again found competent.

According to charging documents, at least two witnesses saw a man matching Montgomery's description strike Jones in the head while she stood at a Northeast D.C. bus stop on the night of Feb. 2. One witness ran to help Jones after seeing her fall to the ground and began crying for help, while the other attempted to pursue the man, who eventually got away.

A Metro Transit Police Department officer on patrol responded to the scene and called for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics took Jones, who was suffering from a stab wound to the head, to Prince George's County Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md., where she later died of her injuries.

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