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Hudson suspect to undergo second evaluation

Feb 27, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

A judge has granted a motion ordering a second competency evaluation on the youngest defendant in the 2011 Hudson double homicide case after the first evaluation found him incompetent to proceed.

Fremont County deputy attorney Pat LeBrun confirmed the decision 9th Judicial District Court Judge Norman E. Young made during a 20-minute hearing Tuesday in Lander.

Jude Blackburn, 16, of Riverton, is charged with one count of first-degree arson and two counts each of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.

He is one of five co-defendants charged in the Nov. 15, 2011, stabbing deaths of Eric Clinton Likes, 42, and his girlfriend, Elva Charlotte Quiver, 20, at Likes's rented trailer house in Hudson. The couple's bodies were discovered by firefighters who responded to a blaze at the residence two days after the homicides. Blackburn was 15 years old at the time of the crimes.

Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn said earlier that Blackburn pleaded not guilty by mental illness.

According to court documents obtained from the Wyoming Supreme Court, Blackburn's attorneys requested a competency determination after 9th Judicial District Court Judge Marvin Tyler denied a motion to transfer the case to juvenile court last fall.

In a motion filed by LeBrun on Feb. 13, the state sought the second evaluation, which would be conducted by an examiner of the state's choosing, to determine Blackburn's fitness to proceed.

LeBrun's motion listed 12 reasons for the

second evaluation, including that Dr. Laura McCormick, who conducted the first evaluation on Blackburn, relied upon telephone conversations with Blackburn's lawyers in reaching her opinion that he is incompetent to proceed.

LeBrun also questioned the timing of when Blackburn's attorneys filed a motion seeking competency relief, which occurred after Tyler denied Blackburn's motion to have his case transferred to juvenile court.

"The Motion was not filed until after Judge Tyler denied Defendant's Motion for Transfer," LeBrun said in his motion. "And after defense counsel has acted as Mr. Blackburn's attorney for nearly 8 months."

LeBrun said the time lapse makes it, "reasonable to assume that defense counsel developed their 'reasonable belief' that Defendant lacked fitness to proceed sometime after the transfer hearing."

"Because Dr. McCormick appears to have relied, to an unknown extend, on information provided by defense counsel in reaching her opinion and because defense counsel had no reasonable cause to believe Defendant lacked capacity until after Defendant's motion for transfer was denied, it would be fair to allow the State of Wyoming the opportunity to hire its own evaluator to ensure the reliability of Dr. McCormick's evaluation," LeBrun said in his motion. "This is particularly important in a double murder case wherein the Defendant has admitted actual physical participation."

LeBrun said that testimony and autopsy results will establish Likes was likely alive at the time his skull was fractured by Blackburn and would indicate that the injuries caused by Blackburn would have, by themselves, resulted in Likes's death.

"The evidence in this case tends to establish that Defendant Blackburn was likely directly involved in the actual murder of Eric Likes," LeBrun said in his motion. "Specifically, Defendant dropped an item, probably a dresser drawer, onto Eric Likes face more than once while Eric Likes was lying in the hallway of his home suffering from several injuries."

LeBrun said evidence indicates Blackburn had full knowledge that the killings were about to occur and continued to act as a lookout and messenger between his co-defendants.

The Wyoming Supreme Court is currently reviewing Judge Tyler's denial for Blackburn's case to be transferred to juvenile court. The order granting the writ of review, which is issued from an appellate court for review of records of lower court proceedings, was filed Dec. 4 and signed by Chief Justice Marilyn S. Kite.

The Wyoming Public Defenders Office filed the petition on behalf of Blackburn on Nov. 7.

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