Mt. Vernon Register-News

September 1, 2013

Judge approves fitness exam of murder suspect

Rick Hayes


MT. VERNON — Judge David Overstreet approved a motion Friday for a psychiatric examination of murder suspect Mark A. Taylor Jr.

Taylor was scheduled to go on trial Sept. 10 for the May 31, 2011, alleged murder of American cab driver Charles Ellis.

Three other suspects have been implicated in the murder, including 20-year-old Damondros Q. James of Mt. Vernon, 20-year-old Demandre D. Black, 20, of Swansea, and Christopher Wells, who has already entered an open guilty plea and is awaiting sentencing.

In arguing for the motion, Taylor's attorney Jerry Crisel said the motion speaks for itself, although he added he has been in contact with officials from the Department of Children & Family Services, who provided Crisel with a copy of a psychiatric examination conducted on the defendant in July 2008. That examination was conducted by Dr. Frank Kosmicki. A copy of the report was furnished to the court and ordered sealed at the recommendation of Crisel.

The report does reveal a few things for the court to consider,” Crisel said, noting Taylor was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and the defendant witnessed one of his parents murdered by the other. Taylor also had an experience as a child in which a playmate was killed when a gun discharged.

Crisel said the report also described the defendant as borderline retarded or at the least having mild retardation, according to an I.Q. test administered.

State's Attorney Doug Hoffman objected to the motion, indicating the alleged incident happened over two years ago and Crisel had not raised Taylor's fitness throughout the judicial process.

Here we are in the 11th hour and ready for trial. From the first advisement to a suppression hearing and pre-trial motions, no doubt had been raised,” Hoffman argued. “This comes as a bit of surprise, and respectfully, ask that the motion be denied.”

In granting the motion, Judge Overstreet said, “The stakes are high and the charges are most serious. Justice requires a qualified expert be appointed.”

Dr. Angeline Stanislaus was appointed by the judge to conduct the fitness hearing within 30 days at the Jefferson County Justice Center.

The court set a time and date of 1 p.m. Oct. 17 for a status hearing to determine if the examination has been completed. The judge is expected at that time to set a further hearing to determine Taylor's fitness for trial.

Trial dates for the remaining suspects have been vacated. Black is expected to go to trial after Taylor's proceedings are finished, followed by James.

Black. represented by assistant public defender Todd Ringel, is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday.

James is being represented by attorney Aaron Hopkins of West Frankfort.