Judge rules man, accused of fleeing from officers, competent to stand trial

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District Court Judge William Sanchez ruled last week that a Los Lunas man is competent to stand trial following a 2010 incident where he fled from police at speeds that reached 100 mph.

Sanchez ruled the defense did not present enough evidence to prove James T. Kirk was incompetent, despite the testimony from a licensed psychologist that said the defendant was not mentally stable enough to testify.

Kirk is accused of fleeing from New Mexico State Police after an officer attempted to make a traffic stop on N.M. 6 near Sichler Road in Los Lunas in October 2010, according to a police report.

The report said Kirk ignored the officer's lights and siren and drove through five red lights at high speeds. During the pursuit, Kirk allegedly nearly struck vehicles in the eastbound lanes on N.M. 6, including a Lincoln County Sheriff's deputy's unit.

At one point, Kirk flipped his sport utility vehicle while trying to avoid stop sticks that were placed in the roadway by officers. The SUV crashed through a barbed wire fence and into a field.

The report said Kirk resisted arrest before he was transported to University of New Mexico Hospital for injuries he sustained in the crash.

Police found "several" small bundles of heroin along with marijuana residue. He was indicted on possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, aggravated assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon, aggravated fleeing, resisting, evading or obstructing and reckless driving.

On Wednesday, defense attorney Joe Allred argued his client was not competent and that his overall IQ was too low to help with his own defense in a trial setting.

Allred called Dr. John Gatling to the stand, who testified he thought Kirk was not competent after he conducted two mental evaluations on the man after the incident.

Gatling found the man to be competent after a November 2011 evaluation, but in May, he reversed his opinion and deemed the man to be incompetent after Kirk revealed that he has regularly had psychotic episodes, such as hallucinations.

Gatling, a psychologist contracted employee with the New Mexico Department of Health, testified that during the second evaluation Kirk claimed to have suffered from hallucinations since the age of 12.

The psychologist said he evaluated Kirk a second time because he wasn't "totally forthcoming" with him during the initial visit. He testified Kirk's IQ score of 64 was consistent with someone with mental retardation.

Gatling testified Kirk told him that he has had a history of substance abuse that included the use of LSD and mushrooms — specifics he claimed weren't included in the first evaluation.

He said the psychotic episodes would interfere with Kirk's ability to be attentive in a courtroom setting.

But Deputy District Attorney Hubert Gray successfully argued there were discrepancies in the psychologist's findings from the first to the second evaluation.

For example, Gray said the doctor noted the man had an "adequate understanding" of the charges against him when the first evaluation was conducted. But in the second, he said Kirk had "a limited understanding" of the charges.

Allred claimed the doctor had to take into account new information.

"Could you ignore it?" Allred asked.

Gatling replied, "That would be totally inappropriate."

Gray pointed out Kirk actually scored two points higher on one section of the test during the second visit, and that Kirk was within normal limits of a test that measured cognitive functioning.

The doctor said his opinion changed once he received additional information from Kirk and his medical records.

Sanchez ruled Allred did not present clear and convincing evidence to prove his client is incompetent. He ordered the case be put on the next trial calendar.

Kirk is being held at the Valencia County Detention Center on two bonds — a $50,000 cash or surety bond from Valencia District Court and a $7,500 bond out of Bernalillo County in an unrelated case.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.