NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A Mississippi man is mentally competent to stand trial in August on charges he shot at three men in what prosecutors call a racially motivated attack in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, a federal magistrate ruled Monday.
U.S. Magistrate Joseph Wilkinson's order says doctors have concluded Roland Bourgeois Jr. still suffers from "certain mental conditions," including depression and anxiety, but is able to understand the nature of the proceedings against him and assist in his defense.
A different magistrate ruled last year that Bourgeois was mentally unfit to be tried in the 2005 shooting. But the staff at a federal prison hospital in North Carolina concluded they restored his competency. Bourgeois was released from the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C., in April after more than six months of treatment there.
Bourgeois, who is white, allegedly wounded at least one of the three black men he fired at with a shotgun.
Bourgeois, who lived in Columbia, Miss., at the time of his indictment, allegedly discussed shooting black people and defending the city's Algiers Point neighborhood from "outsiders" after the storm, according to the indictment. It said he allegedly bragged that he "got" one after the shooting, then retrieved a bloody baseball cap belonging to one of the victims.
Dr. John Thompson, a psychiatrist at Tulane University School of Medicine, determined last year that Bourgeois has psychiatric and medical problems that impair his competency and concluded he shouldn't stand trial until he has a liver transplant. After re-evaluating him in June, Thompson concluded Bourgeois is only "marginally competent to stand trial."
Thompson advised the court "to be vigilant about his ongoing medical conditions and address them if he decompensates," Wilkinson wrote.
Bourgeois' trial is scheduled to start on Aug. 27.
The case against Bourgeois is one of several probes of post-Katrina violence by the Justice Department's civil rights division. Most of the cases focused on actions by New Orleans police officers.