Whitesburg KY
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Attorney claims murder suspect is ‘incompetent’ to be put on trial

The trial of the first of two defendants charged it the January 1, 2014 stabbing death of a Letcher County man was ordered delayed until at least November after a defense attorney said his defendant was mentally incompetent.

Special Letcher Circuit Judge Kent Hendrickson on Tuesday ordered the trial of James R. Huffman IV delayed until November 7.

The trial of Huffman, of Pikeville, had been scheduled to begin October 3. However, defense attorney Robert Wright filed a “motion for competency evaluation” in which he says Huffman “is unable to focus or even remember the events which took place leading to his incarceration” after the early New Year’s Day slaying of Michael Hogg of Kingscreek.

“Moreover, he has given inaccurate and inappropriate answers to questions concerning the events of December 31, 2013 and January 1, 2014,” Wright argues in his motion seeking the delay.

Wright’s motion also argues that what he calls Huffman’s lack of “a reasonable capacity to participate in his own defense” was caused in large part by Huffman’s being held in solitary confinement for 27 months while he was jailed in Whitesburg and Pikeville. Wright said Huffman “has a history of mental health issues” that was made worse by his being kept from associated with other prisoners.

Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II objected to the delay, arguing that Wright ‘s claim that Huffman is incompetent represents “a last minute ambush upon the Commonwealth.”

Banks also noted that Wright’s motion wasn’t filed until “21 seconds before all state offices,” including the Letcher Circuit Clerk’s Office, were “closed for the Labor Day holiday.”

Huffman and a second defendant, Patrick Smith, are accused of stabbing Hogg to death after they began arguing with Hogg and a group of his friends during a New Year’s Eve celebration in downtown Whitesburg. Smith is not scheduled to be tried until after Huffman’s trial concludes.

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