Man suspected of shooting and killing University of Arizona professor undergoing competency evaluation for trial

Murad Dervish is the only suspect in the death of Professor Thomas Meixner.
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 8:53 PM MST
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TUCSON (3TV/CBS 5) - Will the alleged murderer of a University of Arizona professor stand trial or not? That’s what’s being decided now, as suspect Murad Dervish is facing a competency evaluation. The former UA student is the only suspect in the death of Professor Thomas Meixner, who was gunned down on campus last October.

So, what goes into a competency decision? This evaluation is called Rule 11. Phoenix criminal defense attorney Jason Lamm explains, “A Rule 11 evaluation is not an IQ test. The questions are fairly basic and are oriented to the criminal justice process.” The questions are basic because this test determines basic understanding of what’s going to happen at trial, says Lamm. “Legally, that means they have to 1) understand the nature of the charges against them and 2) they have to be able to assist their own attorney,” said Lamm.

It was back in October when Dervish, an expelled UA student, is accused of shooting and killing Mexiner in the Harshbarger building on campus. Dervish’s father said after the shooting, his son had had a violent past and described him as a ticking time bomb. But that still doesn’t mean he’s incompetent to stand trial.

“This person has such a significant problem that it is, it would be fundamentally unjust to put this person on trial,” said Tucson criminal defense attorney Louis Fidel. If Dervish is not fit to stand trial, then professionals will work to try and get him to a competent state, which could significantly push back the start of a trial, says Fidel. “The restoration process can take a long time, too,” said Fidel.

Dervish also cannot take a plea deal unless he is deemed mentally competent, too, so everything in this case is at a standstill until we learn the ruling, and it’s all based on conversations with Murad Dervish happening right now despite his checkered past.

“The exam doesn’t look at the past. It doesn’t look at issues like insanity or childhood trauma like mitigation. It’s only focused on the right here and now,” said Lamm. If he is deemed competent, then it’s likely his attorneys would look at a possible guilty except insane defense. They could also consider a plea deal if something is offered.

We should learn the competency decision next month.

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