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Rape case rests on ruling for accused's competency

Doctors reached differing conclusions about the ability of Richard L. Merryman — a man accused of raping two young boys — to stand trial, so the Athens County prosecutor is asking the court to find him competent.

Merryman, 21, of Canton, was charged with two counts of rape after he allegedly raped 4- and 5-year-old boys in Athens last year.

On April 2, 2011, Merryman was arrested after he allegedly took the 5-year-old victim into a bathroom stall at the Albany Community Center, secured the door, pulled down the child’s pants, touched his buttocks and performed oral sex on him, according to court documents.

Merryman allegedly raped the 4-year-old boy at the center on the same day.

Rape is a first-degree felony. Merryman could be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted at a trial because both of the victims are younger than 10.

He could be sentenced to life without parole because he has prior charges of domestic violence and battery in Florida and was a non-registered sex offender.

During Merryman’s competency hearing Feb. 24, Dr. Jolie Brams, the witness for the defense, gave testimony that Merryman was not competent to stand trial. But Dr. David Malawista, the prosecution’s witness, told the court he was, according to court documents.

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn filed a brief in the Athens County Court of Common Pleas on April 6 asking that Merryman be found competent.

Malawista testified that, in his opinion, “Merryman was competent to stand trial, and he would be able to assist in his defense.”

The documents also cite the testimony of Margaret Sterling, an employee at Tri-County Mental Health. She said Merryman was coherent and was responding to questions based on three meetings she had with him.  

Sterling testified that Merryman stated, “They just need to find me incompetent,” according to court documents.

For a person to be found competent to stand trial, he or she must have an understanding of the legal system, realize what he or she did was illegal, and be able to assist in his or her defense.

A psychologist evaluates the person and then makes a suggestion to the court. After the suggestion is made, the presiding judge makes a final decision on the person’s competency.

“(Merryman) might not be the highest functioning individual, but he can understand what he did is wrong and can assist in his defense,” Blackburn said.

If the court were to find Merryman incompetent he would be sentenced to a year of restoration treatment and then would be re-evaluated.

The court has yet to reach a decision on Merryman’s competency.

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