A competency hearing was held on Monday to determine whether 60-year-old Billy Williams was competent to stand trial while arguments for a change of venue were heard on Tuesday.
Williams, along with Charlotte Crawford, 53, Billy Crawford, 24, and Penny Ford, 31, all of Bulan, are accused of holding Donna Hicks against her will and abusing her for four months from July until November of last year. Officials say that Hicks is still recovering from her injuries. In the meantime, the four suspects have been incarcerated since their arrest for the alleged misconduct following an anonymous tip which led police to the home in Bulan where Hicks was found.
The four were indicted on on one count each of first-degree assault, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree criminal abuse in January while Ford was additionally indicted on three counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.
At Williams’ hearing on Monday, a licensed clinical psychologist presented his report and told the court that Williams was competent on the day of the evaluation, which was June 3, but when asked by Williams’ attorney, Jim Wren, if he could guarantee that his client would be competent on the day of the trial, the psychologist, Dr. Vincent Dummer, said that he couldn’t do that.
According to Wren, Williams had been having delusions of his wife, who is deceased, and sometimes speaks to her.
Dummer said that he saw signs of depression in Williams, but there were no signs that he suffered from psychotic episodes.
“At the time of the evaluation he was in touch with reality ... I will not say that he will be competent at the time of the trial, but he was competent at the time of the evaluation. I cannot predict the future,” Dummer said.
Wren argued that the only thing Dummer’s evaluation proved was his client was competent on June 3 and not for trial.
Wren said Williams has been prescribed medication to help control his emotions, but he is still worried that his client will not be ready to stand trial if the medication isn’t taken properly.
“If the delusions continue I will come back to the court if I feel the medication he is on isn’t working. I have serious concerns if he doesn’t take the medication I will be faced with the same situation as a month ago of him not being able to assist counsel at trial,” Wren said.
Perry Circuit Judge William Engle III found Williams competent based on the evidence presented by Dummer.
On Tuesday a motion for a change of venue was heard to determine if the trial would be moved to another location. Attorneys for Billy Crawford and Ford filed the motion stating that the media coverage the case has received would make it impossible for their clients to have a fair trial, while attorneys for Charlotte Crawford and Billy Williams took no position in the motion.
Steve Goble, Billy Crawford’s attorney, and Howe Baker, the attorney for Penny Ford, asked that the case be moved outside the WYMT and WKYT viewing areas to the western part of the state.
Goble said, “It is good for the community, but bad for justice that Hazard is the media capital of east Kentucky. The stories are going to continue to come out.”
Baker spoke of the impossibility of his client receiving a fair trial due to the media coverage and people wanting to be on the jury so they could “get at her.”
“The media coverage makes it impossible for her [Ford] to receive a fair trial. There have been too many people and too much publicity and have formed too many negative opinions against Ms. Ford for her to have a fair trial. They (potential jurors) will sit there waiting to be seated so they can get at her,” Baker said.
Engle pointed out that the suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty and the jury takes an oath. “Are you saying that any serious case that happens in Perry County, because we have a TV station, can’t be tried here?” he asked.
Goble responded that the case they were dealing with was an unusual case and that moving it to a county that hasn’t already been saturated with media coverage is the “best we can do.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Charles Allen agreed that the case had received some publicity, but said the media coverage was more periodic than pervasive.
“The case is now six or seven months old which is about once a month coverage,” Allen said. “Just because there has been media coverage doesn’t mean there are going to be prejudiced jurors.”
Judge Engle denied the motion for a change of venue citing two cases and by saying that he didn’t feel the defendants had shown there has been prejudicial media coverage that would prevent a fair trial.
“Under the reasoning of the defendants, any high profile case in Perry County would have to be moved because we have a TV station here, but everybody has an internet connection and newspapers,” Engle said.
Trial is set for November 10.