By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
A 24-year-old man facing attempted murder and other charges was found competent to stand trial Wednesday in Knox County Circuit Court.
However, a trial date has not been set.
Johnny Smith was indicted in September for attempted murder, first-degree fleeing or evading, five counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, first-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving, menacing, operating on a suspended license, driving under the influence and second-degree persistent felony offender.
These charges came after Smith allegedly attempted to run down officers during a roadblock in July.
Smith stood with his attorney, Jennifer Milligan, before Judge Tom Jensen for his competency hearing.
Over a speaker phone, Jensen swore in a psychologist, Dr. Timothy Allen, director of the University of Kentucky’s Adult Forensic Clinic, who examined Smith.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele began questioning the doctor.
According to Allen, Smith was evaluated from his arrival on Oct. 11 through his release on Nov. 5. “We met (with Smith) on several occasions,” Allen testified. “I met with Mr. Smith individually four times.”
Allen explained Smith suffered a head injury in 2006, for which he was hospitalized approximately a week.
Much of the “external” information about Smith came from Smith’s mother, Allen testified. “She was a good source of information,” he said, adding that after the head injury, “she noticed a difference in memory.”
Allen testified that the examination was conducted through interviews and observance, but said Smith “gave very low effort” when it came to cooperating with the exam.
“He repeatedly chose wrong answers,” Allen said. “He said he had significant memory problems.”
Allen added that Smith said he could not remember where he worked, nor facts or memories of his own life prior to and after the accident.
However, Allen further testified that Smith knew he “was running from the law,” although he “denied initially” that he was aware of his alleged behavior.
“(When) we probed further, he acknowledged (by) some statements he made (that he had) some knowledge (of his alleged crimes),” Allen said.
He also said that Smith showed an “unwillingness to cooperate” with the examination. “(He gave) ridiculous answers to some of the questions,” he said, adding that the five questions he asked were very simple, and that third-graders averaged 4.5 out of 5 correct answers.
Smith scored zero out of five.
Milligan also questioned Allen, explaining that when she represented Smith on another, unrelated case, he wasn’t the same mentally. “He appears (to be) a different client today,” she said. “Can you account for that?”
Allen explained that a brain injury, such as the one suffered by Smith in 2006, would exhibit worse symptoms “immediately after the injury,” but that over time those symptoms would improve as the brain healed.
Smith was placed on medication after the accident, specifically for seizures. Allen testified that medication “won’t cause memory loss.”
He did add if the dose was too high it could cause “mental clouding.”
The possibility of Smith malingering, or feigning, his competency was also discussed.
Testimony was also offered that Smith said he heard voices, however, Allen said Smith was not acting as though that were true.
Smith was then sworn in, with the limited focus on asking simple questions.
Smith was asked several questions, yet took some time in answering them, and some were answered incorrectly.
However, despite that, Jensen felt Smith was competent to stand trial. Jensen set a pretrial date for June 7. Milligan explained to the court that Smith, who was out on probation for an unrelated crime, has a revocation hearing pending. The results of that revocation could mean a 15-year sentence, according to Milligan.
According to the Barbourville Police Department, early in the morning of July 21, Smith allegedly first tried to hit two city police officers who were at a safety checkpoint near the Knox County Courthouse. Police said the officers had to jump away from the road to avoid being struck.
Smith is then alleged to have driven toward another police officer, who had his back turned as he questioned another violator.
Police said they fired shots to try and keep the third officer from being struck.
Officers said Smith led police on a chase that lasted for miles out of the city and down a side road. Police used a special tactical maneuver to force Smith to stop.
Smith was taken to Knox County Hospital for observation. When it was determined he didn’t need medical treatment, he was taken to the Knox County Jail.
He remains jailed there and, according to JailTracker, is under a $25,000 cash bond.