Cooper to rule on Mooney trial delay

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2008

Will the murder trial of Jason Mooney be delayed again and will a Huntington, W.Va., psychiatrist be allowed to testify as an expert witness on Mooney’s behalf?

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper is set to rule on those two questions this week.

Mooney, of Ironton, is to stand trial April 21 in connection with the death of his grandmother, Thelma Mooney, who was found dead at her Thomas Street home in February 2007.

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During a pretrial conference Friday, Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier, Jr., told Cooper a police officer who is to testify must have surgery and may be unable to appear in court if the case goes to trial next week. He declined to name the officer.

“The community needs a fair trial just as the defendant needs a fair trial,” Collier said. He pointed out that most of the previous delays were requested by defense counsel and not by him or his office.

But defense attorney Rick Faulkner objected to Collier’s request and suggested perhaps another officer could present the information.

“I’m sorry about the medical problem but this is one of two people who could present this testimony,” Faulkner said. He pointed out his client has been sitting in jail for more than a year.

Faulkner brought forward Dr. Bobby Miller, a psychiatrist who examined Mooney and claims Mooney suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Miller said Asperger’s Syndrome may make Mooney more suggestible and therefore more likely to offer a false confession than those who do not suffer from the disorder. Authorities have said Mooney confessed to killing his grandmother and this confession is one of the key pieces of evidence against him.

Miller described Asperger’s Syndrome as a developmental delay and said persons who have it process information and emotions differently than other people who do not have it.

“They are often seen as odd or eccentric or unusual,” Miller said.

Miller said he interviewed Mooney extensively about his life and spoke with family members as well.

He said he discussed with Mooney the murder of his grandmother and what happened during the police interrogation during which time he told authorities he had stabbed his grandmother to death.

“To the best of my recollection, he was informed by family members about what happened and said he didn’t know much about much,” Miller said. “He was surprised he was arrested.”

Collier took issue with Miller’s contention, asking him what specific medical evidence he had to support his claim.

“I’ve looked and I can’t find any literature suggesting, even assuming that he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, he is more prone than the general population to offer a false confession,” Collier said.

Miller said he based his opinion of information in medical literature and specialized training he has had but he did not offer any specifics.

Mooney, meanwhile, remains in jail under a $1 million bond.