On August 28, 2015, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Harris County sheriff's deputy Darren Goforth was shot and killed in Cypress, Texas, while pumping gas. A 30-year-old man named Shannon Miles, who held a minor criminal history prior to the shooting, was named as the prime suspect. He was arrested the next day and charged with capital murder in relation to Goforth's death.
In the months since Miles was arrested experts for both the defense and the prosecution examined him and came to separate conclusions that he is unfit to go to trial. Prosecutors agreed with Miles' defense team that he is "schizophrenic and episodically psychotic" and incompetent to stand trial, meaning he will be committed to a state mental hospital until he can understand the charges against him. However, 61 other inmates are currently waiting for a bed in the same hospital and it will be months before Miles is moved from the Harris County Jail.
Under Texas law, a suspect can stand trial only if he meets a legal definition of competency, meaning he understands the charges against him and can aid lawyers in his defense. Miles' situation is similar to some of Houston's most infamous cases that have also raised the issue of the competency of the defendant, including Andrea Yates, the Clear Lake mother charged with capital murder in the 2001 drowning deaths of her five children, and Robert Gillham. Gillham, who has never been to trial, was accused of arson in 2009 and has been trapped in "...a revolving door of competency and incompetency" for more than six years; repeatedly sent to state hospitals where his competency is restored, then returned to the Harris County jail where his condition deteriorates again, restarting the cycle.
Houston Texas Criminal Defense Attorney George Parnham is currently advocating for implementation of local mental health services in the Harris County criminal justice system. Mr. Parnham's insistence that juries and legislators consider context and mental capacity will help move focus from verdict to treatment and catalyze a societal shift from outraged condemnation to awareness and primary prevention. He is totally committed to ensuring that his clients are heard and, to whatever extent possible, understood. In instances where misrepresentation or misstatement about the factual circumstances of an accusation have been leaked to the public, whether intentionally or not, it is imperative to "set the record straight" and do whatever can be done to level the playing field of public opinion.