Katie Urbaszewski / Houma Courier
Doctors believe a man accused of decapitating his disabled 7-year-old son nearly a year ago is competent to stand trial, which may move the case forward, court documents show.
Jeremiah Wright's defense team and the state will now try to prove or disprove his competency to a Lafourche judge, who has the final say if he is competent.
Doctors have been treating Wright, 31, at the Feliciana Forensic Facility in Jackson for the past nine months. They have been attempting to improve his mental health to the point where he can understand the proceedings against him and assist in his defense, and those doctors claim they have been successful, the prosecution and defense said.
A competency hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21, during which the prosecution and defense will call on expert witnesses to testify about Wright's mental state.
Doctors' results show that while he was being treated, Wright was exaggerating illness to avoid trial, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.
“They're talking about his current state of mind, and it has nothing to do with his state of mind during the alleged offense,” said Kerry Cuccia, Wright's attorney. He will address those findings further in court.
Wright's lawyers have not entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. So far, they have only questioned his competency to stand trial.
Only a jury can decide if a person is guilty — and should be sent to jail — or not guilty by reason of insanity — and should be sent to a hospital until he or she is determined not to be a threat — District Attorney Cam Morvant II has said.
After spending nine months at the mental health facility, Wright was returned to the Lafourche Parish jail about two weeks ago.
Wright was present at a Lafourche hearing Tuesday, held to confirm dates and deadlines with Judge John LeBlanc, Cuccia and Morvant before the Sept. 21 hearing.
Wright did not speak at the hearing, and police brought him in and out of the courtroom in a red prison uniform, shackles and a bullet-proof vest.
The September hearing will be the first major development in the proceedings leading up to Wright's possible trial since October 2011, when LeBlanc first found him not mentally fit to stand trial and sent him to the Jackson facility. The court documents filed in this case over this week and last week are the first filed since March.
“I'm pleased now that the case is moving forward,” Morvant said.
Cuccia said an appropriate amount of time has passed in the case where Wright's competency is in question.
REMEMBRANCE PLANNED ON ANNIVERSARY
Wright is accused of the Aug. 14 first-degree murder of 7-year-old Jori Lirette, who had cerebral palsy. Jori used a wheelchair and had to be fed through a tube.
If convicted, he faces mandatory life in prison and is eligible for the death penalty.
Wright is accused of decapitating and dismembering the boy. Jori's head was found in front of Wright's West Seventh Street home in Thibodaux by a passing driver, with the rest of his body in a white trash bag nearby, police said.
Wright confessed to Thibodaux Police later that day, telling them he killed his son out of anger at Jesslyn Lirette, his girlfriend and the boy's mother, records show. She has said she planned to end their 10-year relationship the day their son died.
Jori's family will host a public remembrance at 7 p.m. Aug. 14 in the parking lot of St. Genevieve Catholic Church, said the boy's grandmother Delene Himel. Balloons will be released, and people may be led in prayer.
“We would appreciate it if people would come,” Himel said.