Defendant is mentally competent - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Defendant is mentally competent

February 20, 2007

Albany -- A Judge rules an Albany man is mentally competent to stand trial for murder. Travis Smith's trial for killing Dougherty County Tasha George is set to begin in less than one month.    

Twenty-eight-year-old Travis Smith was brought into the courtroom at the Dougherty County Jail under heavy guard. Wearing handcuffs and leg irons, four deputies and bailiffs stood within feet of him throughout the competency hearing.  

Chief Assistant District Attorney Greg Edwards said, "The court made inquiry into the competency issues as you heard, to make sure these issues were addressed before the trial."

Smith is charged with shooting his former girlfriend, 25-year-old Tasha George in the front yard of her home on Temple Avenue June 16th. A Dougherty County jailer, George had gone home from work early that day to have the locks changed on her house, and a security system installed. Prosecutors say Smith surprised her and shot her twice in the shoulder and the neck.

On May 19th Smith was arrested for hitting George. He was released on bond the next day, but was ordered by the court to stay away from George.

Smith is also charged with kidnapping, carjacking, and aggravated assault on Eric Griggs, a man prosecutors say Smith forced to go with him after George's murder. Smith was captured in Sylvester shortly after the shooting.

Smith was examined by two psychologists to determine if he was mentally able to be tried for murder. In the hearing, one psychologist testified that Smith said he had been treated at Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville in June, after threatening George. Both psychologists testified that Smith appeared to be depressed, but was capable of understanding right from wrong.  

Judge Goss decided, "Currently I don't have any evidence before me that indicates he is not competent to stand trial, and I think we need to move forward towards a trial."

Judge  Goss then asked Smith if he wanted to change lawyers. Smith almost whispered "No."

The Judge set a trial date of March 19th, with both prosecutors and defense lawyers saying the trial should not take more than five days. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. If found guilty, Smith would face life in prison.  

Travis Smith is being held at Coastal State Prison near Savannah. Officials did not want to have him held at the Dougherty County jail, since he is charged with killing one of it's employees. Judge Goss today ordered that Smith be held either at the Lee County Jail or Lee State Prison during his trial.

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