BANGOR, Maine — A forensic psychologist testified Wednesday morning that the woman accused of killing her husband in June 2011 in the couple’s bathroom is competent to stand trial and assist in her defense, with the help of an aide.
The hearing to determine whether Roxanne M. Jeskey, 49, of Bangor will stand trial this summer for the brutal slaying of her husband is expected to resume Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center before Superior Court Justice Ann Murray.
Jeskey’s attorneys, David Bate and Joseph Baldacci, both of Bangor, have said that she is not competent to assist them in her defense because of medical conditions that have caused cognitive issues that predate the death of her husband.
“She had a tumor on the right side of her brain removed in 2004,” Baldacci said after Wednesday’s hearing recessed. “She’s had extensive heart surgery and suffers from hardening of the arteries. She has long-standing memory issues.”
April O’Grady, director of psychological services at the University of Maine, also said that Jeskey has significant cognitive difficulties related to brain surgery performed in 2004 to remove a tumor. Those issues would make it more difficult for her than for a person who has not had that surgery to aid in her own defense during a trial, she said.
Robert Riley, a clinical neuropsychologist in Augusta, agreed with O’Grady that Jeskey is competent. He testified that the defendant had faked symptoms of mental illness when he administered tests to her.
Baldacci said after the hearing that the test Riley administered was screening and not a diagnostic test. To determine if his client actually was “malingering” or suffering from mental illness, Riley should have administered “a more intense test to weed out false positives,” Baldacci said.
O’Grady testified that Jeskey has trouble with abstract thinking, immediate memory and holding information in her memory while performing another task, such as remembering what she had just read. Under cross-examination, O’Grady said those cognitive problems might make it difficult for Jeskey to testify in her own defense. She suggested that during the trial, Jeskey or an aide write things down and that she and her defense team take more than the usual numbers of breaks.
The consultant, hired by the Maine attorney general’s office, said that she met with Jeskey three times — in November 2011, May 2012 and last week — at the Penobscot County Jail. O’Grady testified that Jeskey’s condition appeared to have deteriorated during that time but said the defendant last week appeared to be making up some symptoms, such as hallucinations, that she had not reported previously.
O’Grady described Jeskey as “speaking in a childish tone of voice and using juvenile-type words. She said she couldn’t hear the questions I was asking because of the voices in her head. She said she ‘wanted to go home and be with Jesus.’”
Jeskey has pleaded not guilty to intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder in the death of her husband, Richard Jeskey, 53, in their Ohio Street apartment nearly two years ago.
Her attorneys, Joseph Baldacci and David Bate, both of Bangor, have said she acted in self-defense.
Police have said Jeskey beat and strangled her husband in an assault that included the use of pliers, a box cutter and a plastic baseball bat on June 12, 2011. His bloody and battered body was found the next day after Jeskey reportedly called police to report he was not breathing.
Jeskey has been held without bail since her arrest on June 22, 2011, 10 days after her husband’s death. She was transferred last summer from Penobscot County Jail to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta so she could be evaluated by a forensic psychiatrist for the state, according to a previously published report.
Her jury trial is scheduled to begin June 24 if she is found competent. A battered-spouse defense is expected to be presented.
If Jeskey were to be found not competent to stand trial, she could be committed to Riverview until staff deem her able to live in the community and not be a danger to herself or others.
She would face a sentence of between 25 years and life in prison if convicted of murder.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained inaccurate information provided by a lawyer of Roxanne M. Jeskey. Jeskey has not pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.