HOUSTON (CN) - With the competency of a man accused of shooting and killing a Texas sheriff's officer at a gas station still in question, a Harris County judge postponed his arraignment on Wednesday.
Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, was shot 15 times from behind on Aug. 28 as he filled up his cruiser at a Houston gas station. He is survived by his wife and two young children.
Shannon Miles, 31, is in Harris County jail awaiting trial on capital murder charges for the shooting.
Miles was not in court on Wednesday morning when Harris County District Judge Susan Brown opted to move his arraignment to Jan. 13, 2016.
After the hearing, Miles' attorney Anthony Osso told reporters he believes his client is bipolar and suffers from episodic psychosis.
Osso said neither he nor the five other people on Miles' defense team, who have tried to talk to Miles, have been able to determine if he understands the charges against him.
Asked if he's ever had a conversation with Miles, Osso said that's not the point.
"Look, it depends if you're talking about legal concepts, evidence in the case, the charges against you," Osso said facing a group of cameramen on the 17th floor of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse in downtown Houston.
"Things that involve an understanding of the legal system and the charges and strategizing and trying to figure out a defense," the attorney said. "No I haven't got to that point. If I ask him how the weather is he can tell me."
This is not the first time a Texas court has questioned Miles' competency.
After the Travis County District Attorney's Office charged Miles with aggravated assault for an April 2012 incident at a homeless shelter, in which he reportedly fought over a TV remote, a judge found Miles incompetent and he spent several months at a state mental hospital.
A Travis County prosecutor told Austin's NBC affiliate KXAN that Miles was declared competent in February 2013, but the charges were dropped because the victim couldn't be found.
Miles' history of mental health issues doesn't stop there.
"In 2010, he was committed for 48 hours stemming from an incident in Harris County, where the sheriff's department determined they needed to do an involuntary commitment," Osso told reporters on Wednesday.
Osso said he couldn't even breach the subject of a possible insanity defense.
"I'm not going to discuss that at this time because legally every expert knows you cannot even discuss, explore or consider insanity prior to competency," the attorney said.
The case took an unusual turn that could play to Miles' advantage after surveillance footage from the gas station helped police identify him as a suspect and arrest him the day after Goforth's murder.
Laura Rezk told investigators she was Goforth's mistress, she witnessed his murder, and she was meeting with him at the gas station, court records show.
Osso says if he can prove Goforth wasn't at the gas station in his official capacity as a police officer, then Miles' capital murder charge could be downgraded to murder, which could save him from the death penalty.
Despite that revelation, Osso said on Wednesday, he doesn't expect the Harris County District's Attorney's Office to avoid pursuing the death penalty.
"We have a police officer shooting, historically in Harris County, they have always sought death, I anticipate that they will, but they have contacted me by letter and said that if I have any evidence that I want to present that's mitigating towards a life sentence, and again it's life without the possibility of parole, to please provide it," he said.
The attorney said that Harris County prosecutors gave him what he estimates as 70,000 pages of discovery on Tuesday, including records of phone calls between Rezk and Goforth, and it will take him months to go through all of it.
Step one, Osso said, is hiring experts to evaluate Miles to determine if he is competent to face the charges.
In a Nov. 23 indictment, Harris County prosecutors charged Miles with felony capital murder and retaliation. The retaliation charge alleges that Miles shot Goforth because of Goforth's status as a public servant.
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