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Preliminary hearing for Decatur stabbing suspect continued again

The first step in this case is evaluating if 19-year-old Aaron Brown is competent enough to stand trial
Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 7:01 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2021 at 4:28 PM CDT
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DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - A preliminary hearing for a Decatur man accused of stabbing his grandmother to death in Decatur was continued on Tuesday.

Brown was set to appear in court today, however, his attorney filed a motion to continue the preliminary hearing at 7:20 a.m Tuesday. According to the motion filed he was unable to attend the hearing due to circumstances beyond his control. Officers found 66-year-old Deborah Patterson stabbed to death in June. Brown’s family members say there was a court order for Brown to be in a mental institution prior to the murder.

District Judge, Shelly Slate Waters, granted the motion at 9:49 a.m. Brown’s new preliminary hearing date has been set for Nov. 23 at 9 a.m.

His initial hearing was rescheduled because he was under the care of the jail nurse. Now, his mental health will be under legal scrutiny.

Local attorney Mark McDaniel has worked on more than 50 murder cases involving mental health circumstances. He says the first step in cases like Brown’s, is evaluating whether the suspect is competent enough to stand trial.

A mental health evaluator will review the case and the suspect’s history, as well as the accused person’s mental state at the time of the crime, and now.

“Every defendant has a constitutional right to be present at every proceeding against him or her. But if they’re not competent, then they’re not present. They may be physically present, but they’re not mentally present. So, any proceeding that you have would be a violation of his constitutional rights because he’s not competent, he doesn’t know what’s going on,” said McDaniel.

If it’s determined Brown can go to trial, McDaniel said Brown’s attorneys will likely argue Brown is not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Brown’s attorneys would have to prove two things:

1. That Brown has a severe mental defect.

2. That he did not know right from wrong when the murder happened.

McDaniel says cases like these typically take a very long time to play out. Brown’s preliminary hearing was rescheduled for July 8.

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