39ºF

Shannon Miles found incompetent to stand trial in Deputy Darren Goforth's murder

The man accused of killing Deputy Darren Goforth has been found incompetent to stand trial.  Shannon Miles will be sent to a state mental hospital.

"According to one of the reports, he's aware of the fact that he's charged with capital murder but it doesn't resonate. In other words, he doesn't fully grasp or understand how severe that is," said Miles' attorney Anthony Osso.

A psychological evaluation was completed and the results were handed to a judge on Monday.  State experts agreed that Miles was mentally unstable. The state hospital is at maximum capacity, so Miles will have to wait until there is a vacant space.

"It's one of our cornerstones and fundamentals of our criminal justice system for someone to understand the charges against them and to understand what's happening in the courtroom," prosecutor Marcy McCorvey said.

"There's 61 people ahead of us. We don't anticipate him being transferred from the Harris county jail up to Vernon state hospital probably for in excess of 100 days," Osso said. 

Miles will stay inside the Harris County jail until something opens up. That could be months from now and his treatment will be on hold. 

"That's a result of the failure of the legislature to see the need to finance additional hospitals, additional bed spaces and additional staff members to be able to bring a person back to the level of competency," said George Parnham, who some consider to be an expert in the defense of individuals with mental illness. His most well known client is Andrea Yates, the Houston-area mother who drowned all five of her kids in a bathtub in 2001.

Parnham will soon be meeting with officials inside the Harris County jail to discuss implementing local mental health services. 

"We will take a tour," Parnham said. "We're going to talk about what we can do to have a local competency evaluation unit established within the jail system."

The Harris County Sheriff's Office released a statement Tuesday that read: "We are disappointed by the news, but remain hopeful that the State will restore Shannon Miles’ competency promptly so justice can be sought. It is a tragic reminder that we lost Deputy Goforth to an individual whose only apparent motive was that Darren wore the uniform of a law enforcement officer."

The Harris County Deputies Organization also released a statement that read: "The Harris County Deputies' Organization respects the decision by the Harris County District Court in this case. We have faith in the judicial process and believe that justice will be served in time."

[READ THE COURT ORDER]

"It's been literally impossible to communicate with him on a rational basis or in a rational manner," Osso said after filing the documents on behalf of Miles. "So it makes it difficult to plan strategy, discuss evidence, discuss what steps we need to take to get ready for trial."

According to the court documents, Miles' attorney wrote, "... have attempted to communicate with the defendant in the Harris County Jail on multiple occasions in furtherance of their investigation in preparation for trial. However, defense counsel would show the court that the defendant does not have:

1) a sufficient present ability to consult with his attorneys with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; or

2) a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him; and

3) is competent to stand trial..."

The defense counsel hired a psychiatric expert to evaluate Shannon Miles.  According to court documents, the psychiatric report indicates, "Defendant has been diagnosed with suffering from schizophrenia and the report concludes with a reasonable degree of medical probability that the defendant is presently incompetent to stand trial."

Prosecutors said Miles shot and killed Goforth in retaliation for being a law enforcement officer, and no other reason.

Miles was indicted in Nov. by a Harris County grand jury on a capital murder charge.

The single-page indictment document, obtained by Channel 2, points to a motive of "retaliation".

"...committing and attempting to commit retaliation against Harris County Sheriff's Department Deputy D. Goforth," the document reads.

There is no evidence that Miles ever had any prior contact with Goforth before the murder, so the "retaliation" could be against police officers in general.

"The way I understand it is that this defendant engaged in this conduct not because any prior dealings, run-ins, or bad blood but because the complainant in this case, Deputy Goforth, wore a uniform," Channel 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson outlined the probable cause against Miles at a press conference after Miles was arrested.

Anderson said a witness saw a man sitting in a red Ford Ranger pickup truck at a gas station on West Road in northwest Harris County.

The witness said Goforth had just pumped gas into his patrol car, then went inside the store. While returning to his vehicle, Anderson said surveillance video shows a man wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts get out of the pickup and run up behind Goforth as the deputy was walking back to his vehicle.

Anderson said surveillance shows the man putting a gun to the back of Goforth's head and firing. She said the deputy then falls to the ground and the man shoots him multiple times while he's down.

"And as you see the video, you see the male get out of the car, he's wearing a white T-shirt, red shorts, tennis shoes, and he runs up behind Deputy Goforth and puts the gun to the back of his head and shoots. Deputy Goforth hits the ground and then he continues to unload his gun, shooting repeatedly into the back of Deputy Goforth," Anderson said.

The man then gets back into the pickup and drives off.

According to Anderson, the video and witnesses confirmed to investigators that the pickup had an after-market trailer hitch and a white cooler in the bed of the truck.

Anderson said investigators ran vehicle registration for red Ford Ranger pickup trucks in the same ZIP code as the gas station and got a match at an address on Pine Falls.

Authorities spotted the truck with a similar trailer hitch in the driveway at the residence.

A man answered the door and told authorities that the truck belonged to his brother, who had just left with his mother.

The mother and Miles returned home, and Anderson said Miles admitted that the truck was his.

When asked if he owned any guns, Anderson said that Miles told authorities he owned a pistol that was stored in a blue bag in his garage.

Deputies got a search warrant and found the gun, which was empty, and the white cooler.

Anderson said ballistics testing showed the gun matched the shell casings found at the gas station.

"The gun holds 14 in its magazine, and one in the chamber. Fifteen shell casings, you can do the math.  He unloaded the entire pistol into Deputy Goforth," Anderson said. "In addition there is a witness who viewed a video lineup with the defendant in it and he positively identified Shannon Miles as the shooter."

Authorities have called Goforth's shooting an unprovoked, execution-style ambush.Miles is being held without bond.

"The shooter in this case didn't see black, he didn't see white. He saw blue," KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said. "That's what this case is about. In another year, the DA's office is going to ask 12 Harris County citizens to probably ask this defendant to pay with his life for this execution."