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Barksdale mental hearing Monday
Police killings' suspect
set for trial in August

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — The mental competency hearing for a man accused of shooting and killing two Athens police officers will start Monday.

Farron Barksdale, 32, is facing capital murder and other charges in the Jan. 2, 2004, shooting deaths of Sgt. Larry Russell and officer Tony Mims.

His defense attorneys have never denied that he killed the officers, but said he is a paranoid schizophrenic.

State doctors found him competent to stand trial, but his attorneys, Robert Tuten and Jake Watson, asked for a jury determination of his mental competency.

Circuit Court Judge Bob Baker denied the request, saying the defense failed to file in the amount of time required.

Baker will determine competency during the hearing, which starts Monday at 9 a.m.

The issue of whether Barksdale is competent to stand trial is separate from the issue of whether Barksdale is not guilty of capital murder by reason of insanity. The latter issue, which the jury will consider, focuses on Barksdale's mental capacity at the time of the crime.

If Baker rules Barksdale is competent, he then will address other defense motions, such as whether to suppress Barksdale's statement to authorities.

Jury selection for the trial is expected to start Aug. 6, with opening statements and testimony expected to begin Aug. 8.

The defense has asked the judge to sequester the jury.

According to Sheriff's Department and police reports, Barksdale called 911 several times on the day of the shooting, asking for the FBI. Those calls went to Athens police.

Authorities said Mims pulled up to Barksdale's house at 1 p.m., and Barksdale shot 11 rounds from an assault rifle, seven of them hitting Mims. Russell arrived soon after, and two bullets hit him. After the shootings, Barksdale gave up.

He remains in the Limestone County Jail, housed in the general population.

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