BOOKMARK DAMAS SECTION
NAPLES — Mesac Damas, the North Naples man charged with killing his wife and five children, will be examined by a psychologist to determine whether he’s insane or competent to stand trial.
Collier Circuit Judge Frank Baker ordered that Paul Kling, a Fort Myers clinical psychologist who holds a Ph.D., examine Damas, 33, who remains in medical isolation in the Collier County jail.
Baker’s Sept. 25 order grants a motion by Damas’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Michael Orlando, who asked to appoint an expert to assist him in the defense. Baker’s order noted Orlando had “stated reasonable grounds and evidence to believe the defendant may be incompetent to proceed and/or may have been insane at the time of the offense.”
Competency involves whether Damas can assist in his defense at trial, and a judge usually makes that determination.
Insanity focuses on his mental state at the time of the crime: that he did not know what he was doing or the consequences, or he knew what he was doing and the consequences but did not know it was wrong. Juries usually decide those cases.
If Kling determines he’s insane, Orlando would file a motion to rely upon the insanity defense and Kling’s confidential report would be provided to the prosecution, which would hire its own expert to examine Damas. The State Attorney’s Office in Naples usually hires Michael J. Herkov, Ph.D., of Jacksonville, a forensic psychologist.
Rules of Court say Baker would then appoint two or three unbiased experts to determine sanity. If both sides agree he’s insane, a judge usually makes a ruling of not guilty by reason of insanity and commits a defendant to a state psychiatric hospital. If there’s a difference of opinion, the prosecution asks for a jury trial.
If the judge rules Damas is incompetent to stand trial, he would be sent to a state hospital for treatment and medication until he’s deemed competent.
Damas’ wife, Guerline, 32, and their five children, Meshach “Zack,” 9, Maven 6, Marven 5, Megan, 3, and Morgan, 19 months, were found in their home Sept. 19. Damas’ arrest warrant says their throats were slit and all were stabbed.
Collier County sheriff’s detectives believe Damas, a cook at a local restaurant, killed them after work Sept. 17 or early on Sept. 18, before he fled to Haiti. Relatives say they’d urged Guerline to leave Damas, and a neighbor said she was packing her vehicle days earlier. Detectives flew to Haiti to bring Damas back.
Further details about the slayings were not released. Affidavits and search warrants in the case have been sealed until Oct. 10.
The couple went to domestic violence court three times since 2005, but Guerline asked a judge to drop her protective order; Damas’ attempts at restraining orders against his wife were never granted.
On June 1, he was convicted of misdemeanor battery in Collier County Court. He was on probation and attending batterers and parenting classes for hitting his wife and knocking their baby out of her arms on Jan. 5. She wrote the judge twice to beg for a second chance for her husband.
Only Orlando, Kling and those helping prepare his defense are allowed to visit in the medical unit, where he’s in a glass cell and observed all day and night.
He’s charged with six felony counts of first-degree premeditated murder. The prosecution will make a decision whether to seek the death penalty and present it to a death penalty review committee.
Damas told a Naples Daily News reporter in Haiti he’d killed his family and he wanted death. He also said he’d planned to kill himself but didn’t have the courage and believed the act would keep him out of heaven.
He will be arraigned before Baker on Oct. 26, when he also has a probation violation hearing before County Court Judge Robert Crown.
DAMAS FAMILY KILLINGS COVERAGE
ONE YEAR LATER:
- Year after slayings of Guerline Damas, five kids, relatives ask ‘did it really, really happen?’
- Confessed killer Mesac Damas wants to die, so should court system let him?
- Damas family slayings: Year later, still haunting lives of friends, family, deputies
- Jail phone call: Accused killer Mesac Damas talks to father about his slain family, Satan and adultery
MESAC DAMAS CONFESSION VIDEO:
DAILY NEWS STAFF JOURNALISTS TALK ABOUT THE CASE:
- THE FIELD: Naples Daily News staff writer describes how he obtained an interview with Mesac Damas
- THE FIELD: Visual Journalist Greg Kahn discusses being the first journalist at the Damas crime scene, and other observations from the field.
- THE FIELD: Staff Writer Steven Beardsley answers questions about his interview with Mesac Damas