MADISON — A year after his client punched him in the face in open court, attorney Joseph Flood teared up in the same Madison County courtroom as he pleaded for a judge to find the man incompetent to stand trial on capital murder charges Thursday.
"In a death penalty case, ..." Flood choked up, prompting Judge Daniel Bouton to ask if he needed a break. Flood shook his head and said he was tired. "We stand where we were over a year ago."
Since June 2012, authorities have twice bounced Rashad Riddick from state-run mental health facilities to Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange in an ongoing debate over where an unstable man charged in the shooting deaths of three people belongs.
Mental health experts called to testify during a marathon hearing Thursday clashed over the 26-year-old Newport News man's ability to assist his attorneys in his own defense. Bouton said the "hotly-contested" evidence warranted an extended review.
"I need some time to think this matter through and consider it properly," he said, pushing a decision back to Sept. 9. "Still, I want to keep this moving as rapidly as anyone."
Authorities charged Riddick in the Feb. 11, 2011, shooting deaths of his uncle James Jackson, 55; Jackson’s wife, Karen Lee Jackson, 53; and her daughter, Chante Latrice Davis, 26. The killings occurred in a farmhouse off U.S. 15.
Riddick filed handwritten motions with the court accusing Flood and co-counsel Steven Rosenfield of conspiring with Bouton in an effort to deny Riddick his constitutional rights. The letters went unmentioned by Madison County Commonwealth's Attorney George Webb, who focused his argument on a June report from Riddick's most recent stay at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County that found Riddick competent to stand trial.
"This was a result-driven evaluation, because they had already reached a conclusion," Flood said, calling the review "entirely superficial."
Riddick left the facility May 14 after seven months, a day after his treatment team called in a colleague from another facility to consult on the case, according to court testimony. A March review found the case too complicated to issue a determination.
"The first report was inconclusive because we felt we didn't have adequate information," said Ted Simpson, a clinical psychologist at Central State Hospital who reported being assaulted by Riddick.
Riddick invokes his Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination to thwart experts' efforts to evaluate his mental health, Flood said. His psychologist at Central State, Sridhar Yaratha, said Riddick has never consented to a formal assessment.
He did lash out at staff and other patients over perceived slights, when someone brushed against him in the hallway or wouldn't throw him a basketball, Yaratha said. He said the episodes led Riddick's treatment team to place him in physical restraints until he pledged to curtail his aggression.
"He seemed to understand the situation around him and the consequences of his actions," Yaratha said. "I think he's competent to stand trial."
The persecutory-type delusional disorder Riddick's defense experts testified Thursday that he may suffer from often only presents itself when the subject of the delusion is invoked. In Riddick's case, the trigger appears to be his court case, Flood said.
Riddick sat silently Thursday, flanked by two jail guards and several deputies.
"Rashad is a smart guy. When we talk about things unrelated to the case we can have positive interactions," Flood said. "I want Mr. Riddick to be competent. I want to have an engaged client and to represent him."