HARRODSBURG — Mercer Circuit Judge Darren Peckler has ruled that the man accused of killing John “Bud” Dacci and attacking his wife is competent to stand trial.
After listening to testimony from two psychologists earlier this month, Peckler determined that James M. Kelley has recovered enough from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to participate in his own defense.
Kelley, 52, of Lexington shot himself in the head the day after he allegedly stabbed and shot Dacci to death and attacked Dacci’s wife, Maryann, in their Herrington Lake home in December 2010. Maryann Dacci was shot and Tased but survived and called 911.
Peckler ordered a mental evaluation in March 2011 and determined that Kelley was not competent to stand trial at that time. The judge, however, believed that Kelley's brain injuries might heal in time and ordered a second evaluation that was completed in November.
Dr. Greg Perri, the neuropsychologist at Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center who performed both evaluations, testified that Kelley's IQ had improved significantly in the second round of testing to a score of 107, considered average to above average.
Kelley scored in the average range on memory testing but Perri stated that he "was observed to make a concentrated effort to manufacture symptoms in an attempt to portray himself as mentally ill," according to Peckler's written order.
In the end, Perri determined that Kelley was “marginally competent to stand trial.”
Dr. Ed Conner, the psychologist who examined Kelley this past January at the request of Kelley's attorney, said his testing showed Kelley suffered from mild to significant memory deficits. Conner also said he tested Kelley's understanding of the judicial system and he scored 57 out of 61, indicating “a high level of legal knowledge.”
Conner ultimately concluded that Kelley is “unable to participate rationally in assisting his attorney in preparing for his defense.”
Peckler ruled Kelley is capable of aiding in his defense. The judge, however, did grant some concessions for his mental health. An extra attorney will be assigned to the case, and Kelley will be given frequent breaks during court proceedings if the case goes to trial.
“The court hereby orders that a supporting attorney be appointed to assist defense counsel, including education regarding law, assistance with understanding the proceedings, and assurance that the defendant grasps the meaning and significance of the proceedings,” Peckler states.
The case has not yet been set for trial, but a date could be assigned during an April 10 hearing.
Kelley’s attorney, public defender Susan McCollough, could not be reached for comment. She is out of the office this week while attending special legal training on death penalty cases.
Prosecutor Richie Bottoms indicated earlier that he is strongly considering seeking the death penalty against Kelley. Now that Kelley has been ruled competent, Bottoms said Wednesday that he will wait to see if Kelley will accept any plea bargains before determining whether to pursue a death sentence.
“If he is not interested in a plea, I plan to meet with the (Dacci) family in depth and discuss that option,” he said.