Judge orders another mental health evaluation in Cory Bigsby case – Daily Press

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HAMPTON — A Circuit Court judge on Friday ordered another mental health evaluation for Cory Jamar Bigsby Jr. to determine whether he’s “competent to stand trial” on a host of felony child neglect and related charges.A court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Richard B. Griffin of Newport News, recently found Bigsby — the father of missing Hampton 4-year-old Codi Bigsby — mentally competent to face trial, meaning he understands the case against him and can assist in his defense.But Griffin’s evaluation stands in contrast to a report from Dr. Earl H. Williams II, a Hampton clinical psychologist who was independently hired by Bigsby’s lawyers.Williams concluded Bigsby is “not competent to stand trial.” That’s a determination Bigsby’s attorney, Curtis Brown, said jibes with his experience. From talking to Bigsby in the jail, Brown said, “I don’t think he’s competent.”After an hour-long hearing Friday in Hampton Circuit Court, Judge James C. Hawks — the retired Portsmouth judge hearing the case — appointed another clinical psychologist to weigh in on the matter.Cory Bigsby, 44, reported Codi missing from the family’s Buckroe Beach home on Jan. 31. He said he last saw Codi asleep in his bed about 2 a.m., but that the boy was gone when he woke up later that morning.Just days after the boy was reported missing, Cory Bigsby was arrested. He doesn’t face charges in his son’s disappearance, however. Rather, he faces 30 charges, many of them felony child neglect counts stemming from his admissions to police that he would sometimes leave Codi and his brothers — ages 2 through 5 — alone for hours at a time.Nearly a year to the day since Codi was reported missing, the boy has not been found.Cory Bigsby, seen at left, and Codi Bigsby. (Hampton Police Division)Brown began Friday’s hearing by asking Hawks to set a hearing date on Griffin’s and Williams’ conclusions on competency — to decide which report the judge finds more credible.But the case’s prosecutor, Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell, pointed out that Williams was no longer on a list of state doctors approved by the Department of Behavioral Health to render an opinion.Brown said Williams had voluntarily gotten off the state list a couple of years ago, but Hawks said that means he can’t give full weight to Williams’ opinion. Hawks asked Brown if he wanted a second state-approved psychologist to evaluate Bigsby.The judge cleared the courtroom to allow Brown to talk to Bigsby, who was connected to the courtroom remotely from the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. When they came back, Brown asked Hawks to appoint another doctor.Another lawyer for Bigsby, Amina Matheny-Willard, asked Hawks to appoint clinical psychologist Elizabeth Wheeler of Richmond, who is on the state’s list. “She looks at the facts of the case, and she’s very thorough, very accurate, and will talk to our client,” Matheny-Willard said.But Bell asked that Hawks “follow the same rules the court follows for any other case” and not just go with the defense’s selection.Hawks found there’s no set mechanism in Hampton for judges to select psychiatrists or clinical psychologists for cases — except that they must be from the state’s list. Hawks then reviewed the list and selected Dr. Weare Ashley Zwemer, of Psychological Services of Chesapeake.When Matheny-Willard asked why Zwemer was chosen rather than Wheeler, Hawks said he recalled Zwemer from a prior case in Portsmouth, and felt more comfortable picking the name himself.“I’m going to remain impartial in my duty,” Hawks said, adding he wouldn’t go with a prosecution’s hand-picked choice, either. The judge set a hearing for March 31 for the sides to discuss Zwemer’s report.If that clinician agrees with Griffin that Bigsby is competent, then the case can simply move forward to the trial stage. But if Zwemer finds Bigsby is not competent, then Hawks must hold another hearing to determine which doctor’s conclusion he finds more credible.A judicial determination that Bigsby is incompetent would mean he would undergo a mental health process to “restore him to competency” before the charges can move forward.That’s different under the law than a judicial ruling that a defendant was insane at the time of the offense, which is a bar to ever facing the charges. Sanity, however, has not been raised as an issue in this case.Peter Dujardin, 757-247-4749, pdujardin@dailypress.com

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