Defense attorney questions competency of alleged killer

LIMA — The attorney for a Tennessee man whose 2019 murder conviction in Allen County was overturned late last year by the Third District Court of Appeals has suggested his client is incapable of assisting in his own defense and therefore is incompetent to stand trial.

Steve Chamberlain of the Allen County Public Defenders Office, in a motion filed Jan. 13, said the new trial of Clois Ray Adkins should be delayed pending his psychiatric evaluation as well as a review of records from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Chamberlain specifically requested ODRC officials compile and provide to the defense counsel “any and all files … including notes, documents, tests and charts including medical, mental health and substance abuse records” as they pertain to Adkins.

Chamberlain said in his recent court filing that the defense “has serious questions regarding (Adkins’s) competence to stand trial and his mental state at the time of the commission of the alleged offenses.”

Following a two-day trial in June 2019, Allen County jurors found the then 21-year-old guilty of two counts of murder and two counts of felonious assault in the death of Robert “Robby” Smith II, 22, during a Sept. 3, 2017 fight in Lima.

During his trial Adkins admitted he grabbed a tree branch and struck Smith in the head. He was immediately sentenced to a mandatory prison term of 15 years to life.

The appellate court overturned that conviction based primarily on a change in the state’s self-defense law.

Chamberlain maintained throughout the trial that his client had acted in self-defense. The attorney had filed a motion with the trial court requesting the applicability of an amended version of Ohio’s self-defense law. Prosecutors opposed that motion and Allen County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Reed determined the amended version of the law was not applicable to Adkins’s case because the indicted offenses occurred prior to the effective date of the self-defense law amendments.

The appellate court’s Dec. 29 opinion, authored by Judge William Zimmerman, disagreed and said Adkins, now 24 years old, was deprived of a fair trial when the trial judge incorrectly instructed the jury that Adkins had the burden of proving his self-defense claim.

A pre-trial hearing for Adkins is scheduled in Allen County Common Pleas Court for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 10. A new trial date has not yet been set.