Kingman murder defendant angry but competent to stand trial

Robert Adkins

Robert Adkins

KINGMAN - An accused murderer who has been prone to courtroom outbursts was deemed competent to stand trial Tuesday at a hearing the defendant did not attend.

Robert John Adkins, 52, stands accused of beating to death his roommate Michael Sudkamp, to whom he was a caregiver, on Christmas Day in 2013.

While Adkins reportedly called his attorney's office several hours before his competency hearing was to take place to say he was too sick to come to court, he has refused to attend previous hearings and he has been unruly at some of the hearings he has attended.

Judge Steven Conn, prosecutor Bob Moon and defense attorney Brad Rideout agreed Tuesday's hearing could take place without Adkins in the courtroom. He has been evaluated by three psychiatrists, including one picked by the state and another picked by Rideout. Two of the three determined Adkins is competent to stand trial.

Adkins, however, has been generally uncooperative with those doctors, including the one who was there to help his cause. He didn't agree to an interview with Dr. Ernest Harman, the state's expert, until just before Harman's report was due. Harman on Tuesday said Adkins cooperated about 75 percent of the time during the interview.

"He thought I was just there to make him look bad," said Harman.

While Harman said Adkins told him he was previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he noted he saw no evidence of the mental illness during the interview. However, Harman also said Adkins was very familiar with the drugs prescribed to people with the illness and how they work.

He is reportedly receiving medication from medical staff at the Mohave County jail, but Adkins isn't taking it because it isn't the drug he believes he needs. Harman said Adkins exhibited paranoid behavior during the exam, but he said most people facing serious criminal charges feel like the system is against them.

Harman also noted bipolar disorder in and of itself does not render a defendant incompetent to stand trial, and suggested Adkins' belligerence is a choice he makes, not a disease he can't control.

"He understands the (legal) proceedings and he's perfectly capable. He's probably one of the most capable I've ever met and he appears to be an intelligent man, capable of cooperating with his attorney."

That's the issue when the mental competency of a defendant is in question - does he or she understand the process and can he or she assist their attorney?

Rideout doesn't necessarily believe that's the case. He said Adkins is not getting the medication or care he needs in the Mohave County jail and said he wanted Conn to postpone Adkins' trial for a few months so he could go to the state hospital in Phoenix, where doctors could properly diagnose him and provide him with the proper medication.

In response to a question from Rideout, Harman said he has found "four or five" people incompetent in the 25 to 30 evaluations he has conducted for the Mohave County Attorney's Office over the years.

While prosecutor Moon said Adkins chooses to be uncooperative rather than in the grip of mental illness, Rideout disagrees.

"I have a client who's not here today and he missed another hearing," said Rideout. "My concern is he's not getting the proper medication in jail."

He also said jail medical staff will not tell him what medication Adkins has been given. He said the "most logical" step would be to send him to the state hospital.

Conn said he was torn over the issue, wondering out loud what harm it would do to send him to the state hospital "to make him a nice person," particularly when Adkins poor behavior could influence a jury's verdict.

"But then I think, shouldn't we do the same for more people? We have a lot of people who don't have mental illness. They're just jerks."

He also said once the case gets back on track that Adkins might cooperate with Rideout.

That doesn't mean he expects the defense attorney and Adkins to walk into court "holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya.' Should I take him to a hair stylist and buy him clothes? Should I buy him a copy of 'How to Win Friends and Influence People?'"

A few moments later, Conn said society might be better off in general "if we just medicated the hell out of everybody and eliminated all the peaks and valleys and we'd all be better husbands and wives."

He found Adkins competent and set a Feb. 3 trial date.

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