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Wreck victims family waits as court decides whether man competent for trial
Joshua-Armour
Joshua Armour

It’s been more than two years of waiting for Elizabeth Chambers, and it could be even longer.

Chambers’ mother, Lula Councilwoman Vicky Chambers, died Jan. 22, 2015, after a head-on crash, which also injured passenger Lisa Page.

Joshua Wiley Armour was indicted in February 2015 on charges of first-degree vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle and other offenses. He has not been convicted.

“It is a long, drawn-out process, where you do feel, ‘Will it ever end?’” Elizabeth Chambers said.

In April, Armour was deemed incompetent to stand trial and ordered for transfer to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ custody. Officials there will decide whether he could stand trial in the future.

“You want to have it so they reach a level so they’re participating in their own trial,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit Public Defender Brad Morris said of a defendant’s mental state.

The Times attempted to contact the Armour family directly and through attorney Brett Willis, but both attempts were unsuccessful.

Two doctors offered opinions on Armour’s rare diagnosed condition, which causes cognitive “deterioration and impairment,” according to an April 26 order.

Armour exhibited “very severe” short-term memory problems and would have difficulty making decisions, according to one doctor’s testimony.

Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin wrote in an order that she found it “difficult to believe that Mr. Armour’s present impairments would not significantly hinder his ability to assist in his defense.”

Competency and sanity are two separate legal concepts, though they are handled in the same section of Georgia code.

Sanity is concerned with whether a person had the ability to distinguish from right and wrong at the time of the incident, whereas competency is the mental capacity for trial, Morris said.

“You in no way avoid a trial. You in no way avoid criminal liability or incarceration, whereas sanity you might,” Morris said.

As an attorney, Morris said the job is to provide a client with all the alternatives, but it is imperative for the defendant to make the vital decisions.

“If they’re not competent to do that, then their decisions could be very adverse to themselves,” he said.

Elizabeth Chambers said she has made it a point to be at the relevant court proceedings, including the competency hearing.

“Of course, it’s frustrating because it’s another step, another waiting process, but I looked at it in a positive light,” she said.

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