Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs / Sun Staff Writer

Justin Barkley appeared at Tompkins County Court House Friday.

January 6, 2017

Psychiatric Examiners Disagree Over Competency of Alleged Walmart Murderer

Print More

Updated on Jan. 19 with more information from a subsequent court proceeding

Two psychiatric examiners came to opposite conclusions after evaluating the Ithaca man who said he “shot and killed Donald Trump purposely, intentionally and very proudly,” and who is facing a murder charge for allegedly shooting and driving over a UPS driver in the Ithaca Walmart parking lot.

One of the examiners who evaluated Justin Barkley, 38, determined that he would be able to understand the court proceedings and assist in his own defense, while the other declared him incompetent to do so, Tompkins County Judge John C. Rowley said in court on Friday. When two examiners disagree, a third psychiatric examiner must evaluate the defendant “to determine if he is an incapacitated person,” according to New York State law.

The third examination will begin next week, Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski said. Rowley also scheduled a hearing for later in January to discuss the “conflicting reports.”

Police say Barkley used a .30-06 caliber rifle to shoot William Schumacher, 52, of Candor, in the chest on Dec. 8 before driving over the victim and fleeing to his residence on Dryden Road. Trailed by police, Barkley fired what he called a “sound shot” at officers to keep them from exiting their vehicles as he entered his home, commencing a nine-hour standoff with authorities from several departments.

Barkley ultimately surrendered peacefully after police used a robot to communicate with him, Ithaca Police Chief John Barber said. He is charged with murder in the second degree — a class A-1 felony — and menacing a police officer or peace officer — a class D felony — and is being held in Tompkins County Jail without the option for bail.

Barkley appeared in court Friday wearing an orange jail jumpsuit marked 2XL with his hands and legs shackled. He scanned the gallery briefly before taking a seat next to his attorney, James Baker.

“There’s going to be a hearing relating to the reports,” Matthew Van Houten, who was sworn in as district attorney on Dec. 30, told reporters outside the courtroom.

Baker and Van Houten both declined to comment on whether they believe Barkley is competent to stand trial, noting that the determination is up to the experts.

Rowley set a tentative court appearance for Jan. 19 relating to the conflicting reports and said the psychiatric examiners may be present for the appearance. Van Houten said it hasn’t yet been determined whether that hearing will be open to the public. The examiners’ evaluations are currently sealed under Judge Rowley’s orders.

Judge John C. Rowley said at a subsequent court appearance that an “office error” led him to incorrectly believe the examiners filed conflicting reports. In fact, Rowley said, both examiners determined that Barkley was incompetent to understand the court proceedings and assist in his defense.”