Suspected murderer of Darius Simmons ruled competent to stand trial

CREATED Feb 4, 2013 - UPDATED: Feb 4, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - A Milwaukee man accused of killing his teenage neighbor has been found competent to proceed to trial.

A mental health expert who examined John Spooner testified Monday that the 76-year-old is competent to help with his defense.

Spooner is accused of fatally shooting 13-year-old Darius Simmons last May. Spooner believed that Darius had broken into his home.

Spooner spent 15 minutes in the Milwaukee courtroom during the hearing.

Defense attorney Franklyn Gimbel says he's concerned that Spooner's health has deteriorated to the point that he may not make it to trial in May.

"The standard of competence is, does he understand the nature of the proceedings against him, and can he confer intelligently with his lawyer?" said Gimbel.

"It's a combination of a long standing depression, and it manifested itself into paranoia."

Gimbel hopes the jury agrees to that claim during the trial.

"They will have to make a decision about what the state of Mr. Spooner's mind was at the date this offense allegedly occurred."

The victim's family pastor, Rev. Steve Jerbi, says the competency finding is what they expected. He says the Simmons family is still feeling a lot of pain and heartache over Darius' death.

A group called Milwaukee Matters was in court to support Simmons' mother, Patricia Larry.

"We have to deal with the pain the family has experienced as a result of another gun in America," said Keith Bailey, who represents the group.

The case goes to trial in May.