A state district judge ruled Wednesday that Jerman Neveaux is competent to stand trial in the death of Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy David Michel Jr. in Harvey in June 2016.
Neveaux’s attorney has argued over the course of several hearings that his client’s exposure to lead as a child caused sufficient brain damage to render him unable to assist in his own defense.
District Attorney Paul Connick's office said there was no such connection.
Judge Conn Regan of 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna ruled Wednesday that none of the evidence or testimony submitted in support of the defense's claim outweighed the testimony of two court-appointed doctors who examined Neveaux in May and determined he was mentally fit to stand trial.
Wednesday’s two-hour hearing included testimony from Gayle Duskin, a linguistics expert who reviewed the records of a psychological examination that Neveaux, who is now 20, underwent in 2013 in light of his poor grades in school.
That examination, conducted by Dr. Lucinda DeGrange, included information about lead levels in Neveaux's blood as a young child and concluded that he was functioning at the level of an 8-year-old.
Duskin testified that based on her review of that report, Neveaux would not have the capacity to help defend himself in court. He “would not be able to qualitatively assist his attorney … or understand what is being communicated to him," she said.
Regan noted, however, that doctors Raphael Salcedo and Richard Richoux interviewed and examined Neveaux in May and found him competent. The judge concluded that nothing in the subsequent testimony of Duskin or DeGrange was sufficient to undermine that finding.
Wednesday's sanity hearing was not Neveaux's first, and Salcedo and Richoux's recommendation has been known for months. Judge Regan had held off on ruling to allow defense attorney Martin Regan to bring in Duskin and Degrange, who testified Aug. 30.
Like those that preceded it, Wednesday's hearing was often contentious. Tempers flared over what Duskin was qualified to testify about and what questions Martin Regan was allowed to ask.
Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese objected repeatedly to Regan's questions, accusing him of trying to get facts and assertions into the record that were not in evidence.
Judge Regan grew frustrated as well, warning attorney Regan and Freese about talking over one another during objections. The two lawyers at times addressed one another directly, drawing the judge's ire.
"If you open your mouth one more time directed at Mr. Freese, I'm going to hold you in contempt," the judge told Martin Regan at one point.
After the hearing, Regan, the defense attorney, said he had not decided whether he will appeal the judge's ruling. Judge Regan gave him until Nov. 6 to decide.
Neveaux has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.
If a jury were to decide he didn’t know right from wrong at the time of the killing, he would be sent to the state mental hospital instead.
Neveaux is accused of shooting Michel to death after the deputy stopped him for questioning while Neveaux was walking near Manhattan Boulevard in Harvey on June 22, 2016.
Authorities say the two started to scuffle and Neveaux shot Michel once while they were on the ground and twice more in the back after Neveaux stood up.
Neveaux then fled to a home on London Crossing, where he was arrested in the backyard by sheriff's deputies who were recorded by residents as they beat him. Neveaux suffered severe bruising and fractured bones in his face. He attended initial court hearings in a wheelchair.
Neveaux also has been charged with two counts of resisting police by force and one count each of aggravated assault with a firearm and illegal possession of a stolen firearm.