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UPDATE: John Spooner trial hits snag as his competency questioned

Gavel & Stryker, made from Cherry & Ash, sold to Whitney Hoffman. By KeithBurtis (Flickr: Gavel & Stryker) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Gavel & Stryker, made from Cherry & Ash, sold to Whitney Hoffman. By KeithBurtis (Flickr: Gavel & Stryker) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - The murder trial of 76-year-old John Spooner hit a snag Thursday morning in Milwaukee.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner held up the proceedings to quickly find a mental health expert to evaluate Spooner. That was after the defense attorney said his client was not competent to proceed with his case.

It was just the latest twist in the three-day trial of Spooner, a white man who was convicted Wednesday of homicide in last May’s shooting death of his black 13-year-old neighbor Darius Simmons.

The proceedings continue to determine whether Spooner was sane when he killed Simmons.

Some national pundits have called this “the next George Zimmerman trial,” but Judge Wagner warned jurors that the case is totally different from the one in which Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting black teen Trayvon Martin.

If Spooner’s jury finds he was sane when he killed Simmons, he’ll go to prison. If not, he’ll go to a mental institution.

Before the jury entered the courtroom Thursday morning, Spooner surprised his legal team when he asked Wagner if he could speak to the jury before it deliberates on his sanity.

The judge and the lawyers moved the conversation to Wagner’s chambers – and afterward, lawyer Franklyn Gimbel said his client was too incompetent to keep the trial going. 

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