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Competency trial underway for case of North Hall killing shown on Snapchat
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Talon Lowery enters Hall County Superior Court Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 for his competency bench trial. Lowery, 24, stands accused of fatally shooting Bryan Ramirez, 18, on Nov. 2, 2017, outside of the Cleveland Highway Texaco in North Hall. - photo by Scott Rogers

Previous story: The defendant in a 2017 murder case told a psychiatrist he believed he could potentially be set free if he could rap for the judge, according to testimony Wednesday.

“Mr. (Talon) Lowery said, ‘I think that I could just rap my way out of this,’” forensic psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Coffman testified Wednesday at a competency trial for the Sautee man.

Coffman asked Lowery what he meant.

“He said, ‘I think that my rap lyrics are really powerful and that if I could just rap for the judge, he would release me so that I could be signed to a label.’”

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Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden listens as Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson speaks Wednesday, Jan. 18, 20223, in Hall County Superior Court during the competency trial of Talon Lowery. Lowery stands accused of fatally shooting Bryan Ramirez, 18, on Nov. 2, 2017, outside of the Cleveland Highway Texaco in North Hall. - photo by Scott Rogers

Lowery was charged with malice murder in the Nov. 2, 2017, shooting of Bryan Ramirez, 18, outside of a gas station in North Hall.

Authorities said Ramirez was taking a break outside of the Cleveland Highway Texaco when he was shot by a rifle.

A circulating Snapchat video of the shooting led authorities to identify Lowery as the shooter.

Competency concerns Lowery’s comprehension of the different roles and facets of a trial as well as his ability to assist in his defense.

Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin previously ruled in September that Lowery was competent to stand trial.

The issue was raised again, however, after Dr. Kelly Coffman noticed Lowery was suffering from delusions right before jury selection in December.

If Lowery is found competent, the criminal trial would begin Monday, Jan. 23. 

The defense and the prosecution waived their rights to give opening statements at the open of the competency trial Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden.

“All of Mr. Lowery’s delusions at some point come back to this central belief that he has a connection to the rap music industry and that he has been in communication with the rap music industry,” Coffman said.

Coffman said Lowery believes he has been in contact with famous rappers including Lil Wayne.

The psychiatrist said she took time to search online about the artists he mentioned and did not see Lowery’s name connected with theirs. 

Defense attorneys Jeffrey Brickman and Robert Rubin wrote in prior court filings about Lowery suffering from symptoms of schizophrenia.

Coffman said it is possible for someone could have ongoing symptoms of psychosis and still be competent to stand trial.

“The real difference is whether or not that psychosis interferes with the defendant’s particular legal case,” she said.

Coffman felt, however, that Lowery does not have a rational understanding of the legal procedure and is incapable of effectively assisting his defense attorneys.

But Lowery has consistently said he wants to go to trial, believing he will go home after being found not guilty by reason of insanity, Coffman testified.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Shuler asked Coffman about Lowery’s comments concerning speaking with the prosecution and the judge to make them understand.

“Doesn’t that sound a lot like him saying he wants to testify in court?” Shuler asked.

“Again, I agree, it sounds like that,” Coffman said. “But it’s along the lines of a belief that if he could just explain what happened then Judge Bearden or (Chief Assistant District Attorney Kelley) Robertson would understand. … He specifically said if I could just talk to them one-on-one, then they would understand exactly what happened and there wouldn’t be a need for a trial because Miss Robertson would dismiss the charges and everything would go away.”

Coffman said she believes Lowery does not comprehend the legal risk of speaking with the prosecutor one-on-one.

Robertson called forensic psychiatrist Dr. Lauren Chatham, who described conversations with Lowery where he felt he could not trust the judge or the jury because he would not get the outcome he desired.

Chatham opined that Lowery understands the roles of the courtroom and was competent to stand trial.

Rubin cross-examined Chatham about the delusions relating to the rap industry.

“And it can interfere with his understanding of how the system works if he believes that rappers can fix the trial, for instance,” Rubin said.

“If he felt that way, then that is possible, yeah,” Chatham said.

The competency trial will continue Thursday, Jan. 19.

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Talon Lowery defense attorney Robert Rubin stands in Hall County Superior Court Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, during Lowery's competency bench trial. Lowery stands accused of fatally shooting Bryan Ramirez, 18, on Nov. 2, 2017, outside of the Cleveland Highway Texaco in North Hall. - photo by Scott Rogers