Judge sets May hearing to determine Damas' competence in death penalty case

Damas in court for hearing

Judge sets date to determine competency

— A judge has set a May hearing to determine the competence of defendant Mesac Damas in his death penalty case.

Collier Circuit Judge Franklin Baker estimated a half day would be needed for the evidentiary hearing, which will feature the testimony of three psychiatrists who evaluated Damas, 34, and arguments from attorneys.

If Baker deems Damas incompetent to proceed, the defendant could be ordered to undergo specific treatment or he could be sent to a state facility for "competence restoration," depending on the recommendations of the doctors.

Competence to proceed is a legal definition that reflects a defendant's ability to understand the charges in a case, understand the possible penalties of conviction, contribute to the case by assisting attorneys and show proper behavior in the courtroom.

The hearing will not address Damas' mental state at the time of the killings.

Results of the completed evaluations have not been made public, although attorneys have said their conclusions differ.

Damas is charged with six counts of first-degree murder for the slayings of his wife and five children, whose bodies were found with throats cut in their North Naples home in September 2009. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

Damas was again outspoken in court on Friday, questioning the need for doctors to participate in his case.

"I don't need a doctor," he told Baker. "I already told you that. I'm not sick."

Damas has repeatedly asked to represent himself in his case. A team of three public defenders currently represent the defendant.

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