Luther Watkins deemed competent to stand trial in killing of Tuscaloosa officer

The man charged with killing a Tuscaloosa police officer in 2019 has been deemed competent to stand trial.

Luther Watkins Jr., 23, is charged with capital murder in the death of Tuscaloosa Police Officer Dornell Cousette, who died in September 2019, and he could stand trial as early as this summer.

Court documents filed last week show Watkins received an outside mental evaluation by a forensic examiner appointed by the Alabama Department of Mental Health. That examiner determined Watkins is fit to stand trial on the capital murder charge.
Tuscaloosa City Council President Kip Tyner, who was a friend of Cousette’s, said his family and his city are one step closer to getting justice.

“This is, of course, what we were hoping for from the city,” Tyner said. “Everyone should have their day in court. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about Officer Cousette, especially with the other two officers who have followed unfortunately his path and been slain in the line of duty. I think the decision is certainly one that I think the public will be happy with.”

Watkins is represented by Tuscaloosa attorney Jim Standridge.

Standridge said it’s important for defendants to be evaluated before a trial, especially in cases where the charges could result in the death penalty.

“If a defendant is not competent to stand trial, he cannot be brought to trial on the charges because he can’t understand what is going on and he can’t assist in his defense,” Standridge said. “The second component of the competency evaluation is if they were competent at the time of the offense. That is usually reserved on down the line closer to trial, but obviously if a person charged with a crime is not mentally competent at the time of the offense, they can’t be charged with the offense because they could not form the requisite intent necessary to commit a criminal offense.”

Watkins and his legal team have two weeks to file an objection to the competency evaluation report.

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