Accused killer of Deputy Darren Goforth has history of serious mental illness

September 1, 2015

Shannon J. Miles, 30, has been accused of killing Harris County Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth. Yesterday morning a judge reviewed the district attorney’s charging documents and found probable cause to believe that Mr. Miles committed the murder. The judge also denied bail which means Mr. Miles will continue to be held while the district attorney seeks a capital murder indictment from a grand jury. A capital murder charge means that Mr. Miles could potentially be sentenced to death if he is found guilty.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting today,

In 2012, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office charged Miles with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he got into a fight at a homeless shelter over a remote control, prosecutor Joe Frederick said. Miles was found to be mentally incompetent in October 2012 and he was sent to North Texas State Hospital in Vernon, Texas.

“From this case, you could never tell what would happen” in the future, Frederick said, adding that prosecutors treated the case as a “very serious offense” and had offered Miles a plea agreement of seven years in prison. Miles was declared mentally competent in February 2013, but the charge was dropped after the victim could not be located, Frederick said.

A person has to be legally competent in order to stand trial. The legal test for competency is whether a person understands what crime(s) he is charged with and the potential consequences he faces if convicted. He also must be able to communicate with his lawyer and assist him to prepare a defense. To be adjudicated incompetent to stand trial, a person must be so delusional and confused that he cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. In most cases an incompetent defendant can be restored to competency by administering anti-psychotic medication. We saw that happen with Jared Laughner (who shot and killed U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a federal judge at a meet-and-greet in Tucson, AZ) and James Holmes (who killed 12 and wounded 70 people at a movie theater in Aurora, CO). Laughner avoided a potential death penalty by pleading guilty and was sentenced to LWOP. Holmes was sentenced to LWOP by a jury after it rejected his insanity defense and convicted him of the 12 murders. The LWOP sentences in both cases reflect a reluctance to impose the death penalty on mentally ill defendants because, but for the mental illness that they did not choose to have, they would not have killed anyone.

I think it’s significant that Mr. Miles was adjudicated incompetent in 2012 and involuntarily committed to a mental hospital where it took four months to restore his competency. That suggests that Mr. Miles has a persistent, serious and probably incurable mental illness that requires a daily dose of an anti-psychotic drug to prevent psychotic breaks.

From the article in the Houston Chronicle:

Jon Evans, Miles’ attorney in the Austin case, said medical privacy laws prevent him from offering any details about Miles’ mental illness history. But he was told by Miles’ mother that her son had a lifelong history of mental illness.

In yesterday’s piece, I criticized Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman for blaming the Black Lives Matter movement for the murder of Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth. I am calling him out again today because his accusation was not based on any evidence. I rely on the statement by the Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson:

Anderson would not comment on a motive, saying investigators were still trying to figure that out. When asked if it might be connected to heightened tensions around the country between law enforcement and civilians, Anderson said: “I have no idea whether it does or not.”

Other Readings:

Black Lives Matter did not kill Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth

Time to end death penalty prosecutions of the mentally ill

Jury sentences James Holmes to Life Without Parole

Black Lives Matter did not kill Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth

August 31, 2015

I write today to criticize Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman for blaming the Black Lives Matter movement for the murder of Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth, who was shot in the back on Friday evening at a gas station in a Houston suburb as he was fueling his patrol vehicle. The person who shot Goforth then approached and shot him multiple times as he lay on the ground. Sheriff Hickman has identified the shooter as 30-year-old Shannon Miles. According to Reuters,

Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman has linked the shooting to anti-police rhetoric following protests against deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white officers around the country. Goforth was white and the suspect is black.

Hickman said the department assumed Goforth was a target because he wore a uniform.

“We’ve heard black lives matter; all lives matter. Well cops’ lives matter too,” Hickman said. “At any point where the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happen(s), this rhetoric has gotten out of control.”

(Emphasis supplied)

Mr. Miles has been charged with capital murder, which means he could be sentenced to death if a jury finds him guilty and decides to sentence him to death.

Sheriff Hickman should know that it’s never appropriate for a police official to speculate regarding a suspect’s motive in any criminal case, especially a capital case. If asked, it’s better to say you don’t know or you don’t want to speculate.

Sheriff Hickman and all other police officers in this country need to understand that the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) did not murder the deputy. As far as we know, Mr. Miles is not connected to BLM and there is no evidence that BLM knew who the deputy was or that it hired or encouraged Mr. Miles or anyone else to commit an act of violence, much less kill anyone.

Let’s set the record straight once and for all:

  1. BLM would not exist but for the epidemic of police killing unarmed black males.
  2. According to the Washington Post, which is keeping track of police shootings this year, police killed 385 people in the first five months of the year.
  3.   49 people were unarmed. 13 others had toy guns (total = 62). In all, 16% were either carrying a toy or were unarmed.
  4. Two-thirds of the unarmed victims were Black or Latino.
  5.  Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.
  6. If the sheriff were Black, especially if he had a son between the ages of 15 and 30, he would have to be deaf, blind and dumb or just plain stupid not to be concerned about the epidemic of police killing unarmed Black males.
  7. BLM engages in peaceful non-violent protest that it has a right to do pursuant to the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly clauses of the First Amendment.
  8. Therefore, BLM is a legitimate movement with legitimate concerns that need to be addressed in a peaceful manner.
  9. If someone wants to play the blame game, the logical place to start is with the police who killed and continue to kill unarmed people.
  10. Killing unarmed people needs to stop.*



*We also need to be concerned about police killing the mentally ill because, according to the Washington Post, about one-third of the of the shooting victims were mentally ill. Some were armed and some were not. Many who were armed were not armed with guns and many who died appear to have committed suicide by cop.



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