Judge orders additional competency evaluations for man accused in stabbing

Jeffrey Shiflett's continued outbursts cause

  • Jeffrey Michael Shiflett is on trial, charged in the death of his ex-girlfriend Katie Hadel.
Jeffrey Michael Shiflett is on trial, charged in the death of… (Baltimore City Police Department…)
September 18, 2014|By Jessica Anderson | The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County prosecutors will attempt Friday to resume the murder trial of Jeffrey Shiflett, whose courtroom outbursts caused a judge to call for additional psychiatric evaluations.

The Annapolis man is accused of stabbing his former girlfriend to death.

Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Jakubowski ordered evaluations by mental health professionals after Shiflett's wails, sometimes obscene and threatening, raised concern that he is no longer able to comprehend the proceedings.

A court-appointed psychiatrist testified Thursday that Shiflett is not competent to stand trial. Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said the defendant was simply trying to avoid prison.

"This is all an act. This is exactly what he wants. He wants to manipulate the situation," Shellenberger said. "He knows exactly what is going on."

But Shiflett's attorney, James A. Sorensen, said, "You can't ignore an expert opinion."

Sorensen said the stress of the trial has exacerbated his client's existing mental illness. He also said that year-old evaluations by other mental health experts were no longer relevant.

Shiflett is charged in the death in February 2013 of former girlfriend Katie Hadel.

Shellenberger said during opening statements that Hadel was giving her 2-year-old daughter a bath when Shiflett entered her Garrison apartment and stabbed her 16 times.

The two had been arrested together years earlier in a robbery case. Hadel had testified against Shiflett, and he had served time in prison.

Shiflett was not present inside the fifth-floor courtroom Thursday after he refused to wear a stun cuff ordered by the judge on the trial's first day.

Court officials set up a video feed Wednesday so he could watch and hear testimony from another area of the courthouse.

When he was permitted to speak briefly and his feed could be heard in the courtroom, he yelled threats at Jakubowski and Shellenberger.

"I'll [expletive] you up, cut your head off," he said to Shellenberger.

Dr. Steven Siebert, the court-appointed psychiatrist who interviewed Shiflett for 45 minutes earlier that morning, said he found Shiflett to be noticeably agitated, pacing and unable to answer basic questions about the proceedings.

"I am raging every five minutes," Shiflett said, according to Siebert's testimony. He said Shiflett "went on tirades" at the mention of the names of the judge, prosecutor and his own attorney. Shiflett has lobbied unsuccessfully to fire his attorneys and represent himself.

But Shellenberger argued that Shiflett, though agitated, was found competent in earlier evaluations and that the trial should continue.

Shellenberger said Shiflett continues to prove he was lucid by being able to discuss topics related to the trial.

He said Shiflett was able to discuss a newspaper article about a judge in Charles County who asked a courtroom official to shock a defendant who wore a stun cuff.

Shellenberger said Shiflett has also been able to cite the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Shellenberger also called a Baltimore County Detention Center employee who testified that Shiflett has not had any behavioral problems while being incarcerated.

Jakubowski asked for additional evaluations from two mental health professionals hired by each side to make a determination.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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