The first-degree murder trial of a 21-year-old Crossett man has been postponed and he has been recommitted to the State Hospital for evaluation and treatment.
Richard Carson Owens, who is charged in the April 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Jacob Stockstill, was initially declared unfit to stand trial in February 2013 and committed to the State Hospital.
The following year, in January 2014, Owens was deemed competent to proceed with the murder trial.
Now, a year later, the court apparently believes Owens’ mental health has deteriorated. His trial has been postponed and he has been recommitted to the State Hospital for evaluation and treatment.
2012 – Charges
Tenth Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen in April 2012 charged then 18-year-old Richard Carson Owens with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, first-degree battery and committing a terroristic act in connection with the April 14, 2012 shooting that killed 17-year-old Jacob Skylor Stockstill and injured 19-year-old Kenton Pittman, both of Crossett.
Owens is alleged to have approached a vehicle and asked Stockstill and Pittman if they knew where he could purchase marijuana. Getting “no” in response to his question, he allegedly fired shots into the vehicle. A bullet struck Pittman in the hand and another struck Stockstill in the side. Stockstill was airlifted to Jefferson Regional Medical Center where he died.
2013 – First Mental Evaluation
After reviewing mental evaluations and hearing testimony from three expert witnesses, Circuit Judge Pope in 2013 ruled that Owens was not competent to stand trial and committed him to the State Hospital.
Dr. Myeong W. Kim, a clinical psychologist who conducted a psychological examination of Owens for the state, determined that Owens was competent to stand trial. However, two psychiatrists hired by the defense found that he was not fit to proceed.
Dr. Robert P. Forrest diagnosed Owens with undifferentiated type schizophrenia, based in part on his delusions of gangs attempting to poison him, his dogs, his family and members of the community, and hearing gang members “rapping” about him in jail despite the fact that he is in an isolated cell.
According to Forrest’s report, Owens was convinced that gang members poisoned members of the community by placing rat poison in marijuana. He knew this, he said, because he smelled the fumes on their breath and sometimes saw a “purple aura” around the poisoned people.
The week before the shooting, Owens claims to have smelled rat poison on his dogs’ breath after gang members attempted to poison them. He fed his dogs hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting and save them, according Forrest’s report.
Owens claims to have heard gang members in jail “rapping about poisoning him” so he sifts through his food regularly to make sure it is safe to eat. He also claims to have heard “code words” in jail alerting him to danger and that gang members “threw their voice” into his cell, making negative comments and threatening him, according to the report.
Although Forrest says he considered the possibility that Owens was feigning symptoms, Owens’ overall presentation was typical of onset of a psychotic disorder. Also, his family and counselor reported a long period of unusual behavior, and Owens “did not endorse items in a way on the MFAST (Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test) that indicated feigning of illness,” according to Forrest’s report.
“In addition, I considered a substance-induced psychotic disorder, but at the time I evaluated Mr. Owens he remained incarcerated in an isolation cell for greater than one month, indicating the false perceptions were unlikely to be substance induced,” Forrest wrote. “Based on my evaluation and available data, it is my opinion that Schizophrenia, Undifferentiated Type, was the most appropriate diagnosis.”
Further, Forrest said it is his opinion that Owens has a “minimally impaired understanding of the proceedings against him and significantly impaired capacity to effectively assist his attorney due to mental disease.”
Forrest’s opinion is in line with that of Dr. Bradley Diner, a psychiatrist at the Arkansas Psychiatric Clinic.
“It is my professional opinion that in light of Mr. Richard Carson Owens’ current psychotic state with paranoid delusions and irrational thinking, he is not competent to work with his attorney in his defense and not competent to proceed with trial,” Dr. Diner wrote in his report. “It is my recommendation that Carson have a formal inpatient assessment to help better establish his psychiatric condition and restore him to competency before any further determination about his mental status be completed.”
Judge Pope ordered the state Department of Human Services to report back to the court if within 10 months Owens regains his fitness to stand trial. Otherwise, DHS is to report in 10 months if Owens’ mental disease or defect is of a nature precluding restoration of fitness to proceed and if he presents a danger to himself or others.
2014 – Competent
Judge Pope in January 2104 denied Owens’ motion for acquittal. The motion was based on psychiatric reports from the State Hospital.
The State Hospital report, however, conflicted with a report from Dr. Myeong W. Kim, a clinical psychologist who conducted a psychological examination of Owens for the state. Dr. Kim found that Owens did not suffer from mental disease.
Pope denied Owens’ motion for acquittal, ruling that the matter would be settled by a jury.
Owens was found fit to proceed with trial. The issue before the jury would be whether or not Owens had a mental disease at the time of the homicide.
2015 – Trial Postponed
Owens, who was set to be tried this year for murder, once again will undergo a mental evaluation. The judge recently postponed the trial and ordered Owens to be recommitted to the State Hospital for mental evaluation and treatment.