Previous story: After two days of testimony by three psychiatrists, Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden ruled Thursday, Jan. 19, that the suspect in a 2017 fatal shooting in North Hall is competent to stand trial.
Talon Lowery, 24, faces a murder charge from the Nov. 2, 2017 of Bryan Ramirez, 18, outside of the Cleveland Highway Texaco. Lowery was identified as a suspect after law enforcement became aware of a Snapchat video of the shooting.
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The Times has followed this case since the first reports of the shooting outside a Texaco in 2017. Murder charges can sometimes go to court in a year, but with mental competency in question and the COVID-19 pandemic, this case has been different. Our staff reports initial charges in serious crimes and works diligently to report the outcome of those charges in the court system. It can be a lengthy process but one we believe is fair to those involved and to the community affected by such crimes. We appreciate the support of subscribers who make this kind of coverage possible for Gainesville and Hall County. To support our newsroom, consider a subscription starting as low as 99 cents a week.
Bearden ruled Thursday that he felt Lowery was competent to stand trial and could work with his attorneys, Robert Rubin and Jeffrey Brickman, in his trial defense.
“I’m satisfied and I feel comfortable that Mr. Lowery understands the value of his attorneys and the necessity of relying upon the counsel of his attorneys, that he can take their counsel (and) that it has a meaning to him,” Bearden said.
The judge said he felt Lowery also understands the consequences of going to trial, including the possibility of life in prison. Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin previously ruled Lowery was competent for trial in September, but the issue was renewed due to concerns about Lowery’s delusions on the eve of trial in December.
The competency trial focused on Lowery’s diagnosis of schizophrenia and ongoing delusions related to the rap industry.
“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,” psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Coffman testified Wednesday, Jan. 18.
The prosecution brought Dr. Wanda Shao on Thursday, who testified that most defendants with schizophrenia are not asymptomatic when competency is achieved.
“Only a handful, a small number of patients don’t have any symptoms when they’re found competent to stand trial,” Shao said. “It’s the nature of the disease, so the goal isn’t to have no symptoms. It’s to make sure he can live with those symptoms and be competent.”
While Shao said she agrees with Dr. Lauren Chatham that he is still suffering from symptoms of schizophrenia, the doctors said they believe it is not affecting his competency for trial.
Both sides offered a brief argument to Bearden before he considered his ruling.
“On multiple occasions, Talon Lowery has implored, downright begged his doctors at (Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities) to come into court and say he’s not competent to stand trial, to come into court to say he’s not guilty by reason of insanity, that he didn’t know right from wrong at the time that he killed Bryan Ramirez,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson said. “That is the definition of someone who appreciates the severity and the consequences of these proceedings.”
Rubin returned to some of the delusional elements elicited during testimony in his closing argument, such as Lowery’s reported belief that famous rappers may help get him out of his legal predicament.
“If you believe that some famous personality can come in and through some magic wand or conversation or testimony get you off of a murder charge, you’re delusional and you don’t have a rational understanding of how this works,” Rubin said.
The criminal trial will begin Monday, Jan. 23.