Psychiatrist says Brad Compher not competent to stand trial for Nori Jones murder

Brad Scott Compher

Brad Scott Compher

By Shelbie Harris, sharris@journalnet.com

POCATELLO — The sanity of a man charged in connection to the stabbing death of Nori Jones inside her Poleline Road home in 2004 could delay his trial for months, if not years.

Brad Scott Compher, 42, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Jones, and was back in court Monday for a hearing to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

State prosecutors on Monday objected to a motion filed last month by Compher’s attorneys to declare Compher incompetent based on an evaluative report completed by Dr. David Moulton, a forensic psychiatrist in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In Idaho, no law exists that affords a defense attorney the use of insanity as a defense in state courtrooms. Rather, Idaho courts determine whether a suspect is capable of criminal intent, and if that defendant can understand the charges against them.

If the mental health of a person charged with a crime in Idaho is called into question, an attorney can order a competency assessment to be completed by a licensed psychologist. During the assessment, the psychologist determines if the person is competent enough to stand trial. The person must understand the charges against them, understand the basics of the legal system and have the wherewithal to participate in their defense.

While the state didn’t contend the validity of the report or Moulton’s credibility, it did argue that one subsection of the report regarding the defendant’s ability to receive treatment for his incompetency that is required by Idaho statute was missing.

The state argued that because of the missing information, a secondary evaluation should be completed by a separate psychiatrist.

Judge Stephen Dunn denied the state’s motion and offered two solutions instead. Either the state could allow defense attorneys to contact Moulton and have him complete the missing section of the report, or Dunn said he could admit Compher to State Hospital South in Blackfoot.

Nori Jones

Nori Jones

At State Hospital South, Compher would initially be admitted for 90 days while a secondary competency assessment is completed. After 90 days, if the person is not found to be competent, their stay is extended to as much as 180 additional days.

If, after the maximum 270-day time period, a person still isn’t found to be competent, they can be civilly committed to the hospital for a year. At the end of that year, if a person still meets the criteria for civil commitment, they’ll stay indefinitely until they can become competent.

“There’s no question that this report raises questions about his fitness to proceed,” Dunn said about the competency assessment of Compher. “With a serious question about his competency, we can’t go to court.”

If Moulton completes an updated evaluation, and the state still contests the findings, it can file a motion requesting an evidentiary hearing regarding the report.

Moulton has two weeks to complete the evaluation. Then the state would have a few days to look at the findings and decide its stance. The judge hopes to have the evaluation and a decision from the prosecution by Jan. 24.

Compher, who faces the death penalty, was arrested in 2014 after advances in DNA technology brought new evidence in the Nori Jones murder case to light.

The case was cold for 10 years and has been in the courts for over three years without a date set for trial.