Suspect in officer's death declared incompetent for trial

A man on trial in the death of a New Orleans police officer was declared incompetent to stand trial Thursday — a day after he smuggled feces into the courtroom and smeared them on his face and mouth during jury selection.

Prosecutors' experts said Travis Boys' action Wednesday was a stunt to delay prosecution in the 2015 shooting death of Officer Daryle Holloway.

But State District Judge Karen Herman said she was declaring him incompetent out of an abundance of caution and based on testimony of two other mental health experts who examined him Thursday morning.

Herman ordered that Boys be evaluated and medicated if necessary to restore his competence so that he can face trial on a first-degree murder charge in Holloway's death.

Members of Holloway's family cried as she announced her decision.

Prosecutors objected to the ruling and said it would result in further disruptive behavior once Boys returns for trial. "He's manipulating this court and he's manipulating you," Assistant District Attorney Inga Petrovich told Herman as Boys sat shackled and under close guard in a corner of the courtroom.

Herman ruled after hours of closed-door examinations of Boys and open court testimony and arguments. Defense attorney Billy Sothern opened the arguments by describing how his client, sitting at the defense table Wednesday afternoon between Sothern and another defense lawyer, pulled feces from his clothing, smeared it on his face and head and even eating it from his fingers.

An attorney for the New Orleans sheriff, Blake Arcuri, testified Thursday that an investigation determined that Boys had smuggled the feces into the courthouse when he was transferred from the parish prison, using a plastic bag from the prison commissary. It was apparently secreted away in his underwear and was undetected when he changed from prison garb into a suit for jury selection.

Such planning and execution belies assertions that Boys is suffering from intellectual disabilities or mental illness, prosecution experts said. "It was a carefully organized event — for effect in my opinion," said Dr. Raphael Salcedo, a psychiatrist.

Petrovich said it was reminiscent of the day Holloway died.

Boys had been arrested for allegedly shooting at his wife in June 2015 when he was put into a police SUV driven by Holloway for transport to jail. Boys is believed to have somehow smuggled a gun into the police unit.

"What he did yesterday is on point with what he did in June 2015," Petrovich said.

Defense experts said they didn't base their incompetency determination on the feces incident but on Boys' records and their examination of him Thursday morning.

Dr. Sarah Deland said Boys showed signs of being both mentally disabled and mentally ill. She recommended that he be hospitalized and treated.