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Cooke getting mental evaluation
Accused killer may try insanity defense
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A mental evaluation has halted the murder case against accused killer Bryan James Cooke as mental health professionals try to determine if he is sane to stand trial for the slayings of local business owners Gail and Gary Dodson.Cooke’s preliminary hearing, which was set for last week, has been continued until the results of the Plateau Mental Health evaluation are complete. Pending the evaluation, Cooke is being held at Coffee County Jail under $2 million bond, charged with the murders of his in-laws. He is also being held for violation of probation.The mental evaluation, which was ordered by General Sessions Judge Bill Locke ahead of Cooke’s preliminary hearing, will try to determine two things – his competency to stand trial and his mental condition at the time he allegedly committed the murders.“The staff shall assess if he understands the nature of the legal process and the charges pending against him, whether he recognizes the consequences that can follow those charges, and whether he is capable of assisting his counsel and participating in his own defense,” the order directing mental evaluation reads.The second prong of the mental evaluation could be used as an insanity defense should mental health experts determine Cooke was not sane when he allegedly killed the Dodsons.“The staff shall assess that as result of severe mental disease or defect that he was unable to appreciate the nature of the wrongfulness of such acts or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law,” the mental evaluation order reads.While an insanity defense remains on the table should experts find Cooke to be insane or incompetent, very few cases clear the high hurdle required to mount such a defense.Cooke faces homicide charges after the Dodsons were found dead in their home, the victims of foul play, on the morning of June 29.