PRINCETON — Gibson Circuit Judge Jeffrey Meade ruled Wednesday that Lance Z. Marley, Princeton, is competent to stand trial Nov. 27 for murder in the October, 2016 stabbing death of his girlfriend, Lindsey A. Fleck.
The ruling came after argument by court-appointed defense attorney Terrell Maurer, who said Gibson County Jail records of incidents this summer regarding Marley attempting to stab himself with a plastic utensil, talking about hearing voices and reporting that a chip had been implanted in his head are evidence of auditory hallucinations and delusions that "make it impossible to have a reasonable conversation with him to assist in his defense."
Clinical psychologist David Cerling testified Wednesday that following a Sept. 11 interview and testing with Marley at the Gibson County Jail, he believes that he is competent. Cerling confirmed that he conducted a test for malingering (faking) symptoms that has a cut-off score of 14, and Marley scored 37.
"For most of the interview, he was very straightforward," Cerling told the judge. But the psychologist said that when he asked Marley about matters relating to the case, he was not responding to some of the questions. Cerling said if Marley was acting on his attorney's advice not to discuss the case, then not responding to the questions would be a rational self-interested decision. "He's making a decision based on what he perceives to be in his own interest," Cerling said.
The psychologist said Marley "presented as functioning well intellectually" with no impairment as far as being able to understand legal proceedings.
Cerling testified that Marley talked about having a chip installed in his head and talked about hearing voices, but his demeanor and discussion did not match a deteriorating mental health condition. "He scored in the direction of malingering symptomality," Cerling reported.
The psychologist agreed that auditory hallucinations (hearing voices in his head) would be a sign of a severe mental illness, and reviewed defense exhibits of a jail report of a July 19 incident where Marley was discovered crying on the floor of his padded cell, asking the jailer why he had a chip in his head. A Oct. 9 report by corrections officers reported Marley was cursing and telling jailers he was tired of guards and vents talking to him, reporting that voices were telling him he was on a game show, and that he had a chip in his head.
Cerling said that Marley "described the symptoms as emerging in the last two months...that's not the ordinary course of emergence." One of the reports noted that following the July 19 incident a day prior to a July 20 court hearing, Marley remarked "This will push my court date back..."
Cerling said the symptoms Marley described were detailed. "This is not something people are comfortable with...they keep these things to themselves...it is almost as though that would be more consistent, to me, with malingering. It just looked like it was very descriptive of something he wanted people to know."
Psychiatrist Rebecca Meuller testified that she interviewed Marley Aug. 25 and he did not mention auditory hallucinations or delusions. "He was calm and pleasant and cooperative," she reported. Meuller said Marley was knowledgeable of the court proceedings, but when asked about details related to the incident and about past personal romantic relationships, "he very calmly declined to answer," telling her he thought it would be better for him to go over the details with his attorney.
"He had a coherent, concise thought process...he was logical," she testified.
Maurer questioned Mueller about an anti-psychotic medication prescribed to Marley, and Mueller said the dosage level Marley was prescribed was likely more of an anti-anxiety than anti-psychotic use.
Gibson County Prosecutor Michael Cochren said the state believes the doctors' reports are indicative of Marley's competency to stand trial.
The jury trial remains scheduled to begin Nov. 27 in Gibson Circuit Court. A Nov. 22 final pretrial hearing is also scheduled. Before Wednesday's hearing concluded, Cochren made note of a defense motion granted ordering transport of two Princeton men in custody awaiting trial in a May Knox County murder case as potential witnesses in the Marley trial.
This summer, Maurer's motion seeking investigatory material related to the arrests of Christopher J. Schatz, 41, and Jeremy R. Schatz, 27, in the May 3 death of John D. Lowe of Decker, was granted. Judge Meade also ordered the Gibson County Prosecutor’s office to produce any evidence regarding its investigation into a possible link between the Schatz cousins and home security surveillance footage of a masked person shooting into a home on Old Owensville Road May 1.
Maurer filed the request seeking exculpatory evidence that could benefit Marley, based on a statement that Marley made to police in the hours after Fleck’s stabbing death last fall. In a probable cause hearing last year, Princeton Police Dept. Assistant Chief Mike Hurt testified that Marley told him in an interview that a masked man covered in white paint, armed with a gun and knife, knocked at his door and threatened him.
In that hearing, Hurt testified that Marley told him he took his child and ran to the back, and the man must have chased and killed Fleck. Hurt said that when he challenged Marley’s account, Marley became angry and asked for a lawyer.
Maurer’s request for the materials in the other cases made note of a news report that Gibson County authorities investigated a link between the Schatzes, arrested in the Knox County death of John Lowe, and a May 1 report involving a gun shot at a house on Old Ind. 65 in Gibson County.
The Schatzes are in custody in Knox County awaiting trial in February in the Lowe death. No charge was filed in Gibson County against either of them in connection with the shooting incident on Old Owensville Road.