David Jungerman found competent, first-degree murder trial expected to resume Wednesday
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Jurors will be back in the courtroom Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of David Jungerman.
A judge ruled Tuesday that Jungerman is competent to continue to stand trial. Jungerman is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the 2017 fatal shooting of attorney Tom Pickert.
Jungerman entered the courtroom Tuesday using a wheelchair for the first time during the trial. He previously walked slowly to enter and exit the courtroom each day. Testimony in the trial began on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The trial was suspended last week after a report of a possible COVID exposure. Then, Jungerman’s defense informed the court they had concerns about his competency. Both the state and defense teams hired their own doctors to administer competency tests.
Jungerman’s defense attorneys called forensic psychologist Dr. Lisa Witcher to the stand. She described the tests she administered. She told the court she did not believe Jungerman was competent to assist his defense or testify on his own behalf based the results of the tests.
His defense team argued he had a previous history of a stroke and epilepsy. Attorney for the defendant Daniel Ross told the judge Jungerman fell asleep several times during the previous trial testimony last week and they woke him. Ross said Jungerman didn’t remember all his attorneys’ names and asked for additional testing.
“To be examined by an independent neurologist, to have that done posthaste and have those results brought back, and the parties can evaluate those results and see how to appropriately proceed,” Ross said.
Prosecutors presented evidence from trained neuropsychologist Dr. William Blessing, PhD who administered his own tests. He found Jungerman was competent to assist his defense and stand trial. A prosecutor told the court Jungerman has communicated with detention staff and doctors throughout the trial. He added the defense raised the issue of competency after the state rested their case.
“They document in real time ongoing, rational communication concerning requests that he makes virtually every day and evening,” Jackson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tim Dollar said, referring to notes from detention staff and doctors.
Dollar also argued Jungerman was found competent to stand trial in 2019.
“He is competent and that’s the evidence,” Dollar said.
Judge John Torrence said incarceration for 4.5 years and standing trial would have an impact on anyone Jungerman’s age. Jungerman is 84 years old.
Judge Torrence then announced he found Jungerman was competent.
“I don’t think, based on everything I’ve heard and read, that there is any substantial evidence of a neurocognitive disorder that would promote the idea that the defendant is unable to assist in his defense or understand the legal proceedings here against him,” Judge Torrence said. “There is reason to be skeptical, from my perspective, about the defendant’s motives. There is a history of this. Taking all of these things into account, I’m going to find he is able to go forward. That he is competent.”
The trial is expected to resume Wednesday morning around 9 a.m. Stay with KCTV5 News for continuing trial coverage.
Prosecutors rested their case last Thursday. Jungerman’s defense attorneys are expected to begin calling their first witnesses Wednesday.
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