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Aspects of mental health will determine whether Semmie Williams is competent for trial

Semmie Williams, accused of stabbing 14-year-old Ryan Rogers to death in Nov., 2021, at competency hearing, May 27, 2022. (WPEC)
Semmie Williams, accused of stabbing 14-year-old Ryan Rogers to death in Nov., 2021, at competency hearing, May 27, 2022. (WPEC)
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Arguments in a question that has been debated for months may be done by the end of this week. That’s whether the suspect accused of seeing 14-year-old Ryan Rogers riding his bike and stabbing him to death in November is competent to stand trial.

Semmie Lee Williams, Jr., is charged with first-degree murder and if convicted, will either get sentenced to life in prison or death, since the state is asking for the death penalty.

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A hearing about Williams’ competence took place in Mental Health Court last Friday and lasted four hours. At the end, Judge Charles Burton gave both sides deadlines to submit written arguments. Williams’ defense has until Wednesday and prosecutors have until Friday.

As CBS12’s Al Pefley reported, three psychologists examined Williams and testified at the hearing.

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Two were from the prosecution. They said they spent less than two hours on their evaluations of Williams, and agreed he is competent to stand trial.

The psychologist from the defense came to the opposite conclusion, that Williams is not competent to stand trial.

Dr. Gretchen Moy testified that she examined Williams for much longer: about seven hours during eight visits to the jail.

Williams is being held in the Palm Beach County Jail’s mental health unit and receiving psychiatric treatment.

Moy explained she needed that time with Williams since he’s paranoid and delusional.

“It’s important to establish a rapport with them, a relationship,” she said, since Williams doesn’t trust people and she had to find what his actual symptoms were.

Williams has been diagnosed as schizophrenic and Moy said he has a delusional belief system that has gotten him cut off from family and friends who found him odd or bizarre, and has caused him to be homeless.

Specifically, Moy said Williams believes groups of people are after him and have victimized him, so he has gone from city to city to escape.

Unfortunately for Williams, according to Moy, is that it’s hard for medications to treat delusional beliefs and while Williams has been helped by anti-psychotic drugs, this part remains.

He sees the entire world through the lens of these delusions.

“He sees the entire world through the lens of these delusions,” she testified, “So that means every person he encounters, he's suspicious of. He's worried that they might be one of these harassers that are going to harm him.” So that’s keeping Williams from being competent.

In other examples, Moy explained that Williams knows about the case, who people are and what they’re supposed to do, and how to act in court because he has been going through competency restoration for two years.

...he can't incorporate it into his belief system.

As for appreciation of the adversarial nature of the legal process, Moy said she considers Williams “questionable” because he is OK with the facts — but when a defense lawyer mentioned the role of the jury, she became concerned because he is so suspicious of people. “When his attorneys provide him with information, he can't incorporate it into his belief system.”

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Possibly worse for Williams, Moy said, would be his capacity to disclose pertinent facts. She diagnosed that aspect as “unacceptable” since his delusional beliefs greatly impact the legal strategy he wants and his illogical thought processes about ways he views different components of his case.

“The way he views the world is just not based in reality and so to have him making decisions about sort of what his future reality is going to be makes him unacceptable in this domain.”

The judge said he will rule at some point after getting arguments from both sides by the end of the week.

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