NEW ORLEANS – A defendant who brought an abrupt end to his murder trial in October by smearing his head with excrement in court was declared competent Thursday to stand trial in the 2015 shooting death of a New Orleans police officer.
Six weeks ago, state District Judge Karen Herman had declared Travis Boys incompetent, but ordered a mental evaluation and, if necessary, treatment aimed at restoring his competency so he could be tried in the June 2015 shooting death of Officer Daryl Holloway.
On Thursday, Herman said Boys had clearly been trying to manipulate the court in October. She said he "hijacked the court proceedings" when he smuggled feces into the courtroom and rubbed the waste matter on his head and face.
"He will no longer be allowed to control these proceedings," Herman told defense attorney Billy Sothern as Boys sat quietly at the defense table, shackled and surrounded by guards. She set a March 19 trial date.
Herman heard testimony from psychiatrists who said Boys was largely uncooperative with efforts at mental evaluation. They said he was likely exaggerating symptoms of mental health issues.
Dr. John Thompson was one of two psychiatrists called by prosecutors. He said Boys was uncooperative during evaluations. When he did answer questions, he displayed little understanding of the court process. However, Thompson said, Boys seemed able to converse with others at the state hospital where he was sent last month. Thompson also said one guard reported that Boys appeared to be able to play chess with another patient, and that staff reported he had hoarded fruit in his room in an apparent plan to make homemade wine.
Called by the defense, Dr. Brad McConville acknowledged the possibility that Boys was faking symptoms including claims that he heard voices in his head. But McConville said there were also indications that Boys didn't fully understand the judicial process.
"There is great risk Mr. Boys will go to trial incompetent and not understanding his rights and unable to assist," Sothern told Herman in a brief closing statement.
"What is at issue is his willingness to go forward," argued prosecutor Inga Petrovich.
Jury selection was under way last month in the first-degree murder trial when Boys, seated at the defense table, pulled a plastic bag full of feces from his clothing. He rubbed the waste on his head and face, and even licked it from his fingers, according to a defense attorney who had been seated next to him.
On Thursday, he was back in shackles at the defense table, two burly guards standing just behind him. The hearing began with a warning from Herman that he could be removed from the courtroom for disruptive behavior.
According to testimony at a hearing last month, Boys is believed to have smuggled the feces into the courthouse when he was transferred from the New Orleans jail. He had used a bag from the lockup's commissary, according to testimony from a Sheriff's Office attorney. It was apparently secreted away in his underwear and was undetected when he changed from prison garb into a suit for jury selection.
Holloway was fatally shot as he transported Boys to jail after an earlier arrest. Police said they believe the gun police was smuggled into the police SUV that Holloway was driving.
Boys, who has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, was arrested a day after the shooting.