By Mark Minton
Saturday February 10, 2018
Court proceedings have been continued again for a Somali man charged with second-degree murder in connection with a fatal motorcycle accident in October 2017.
Bashir Omar, 31, 312 W. Mary St., is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 67-year-old Robert Becker. Becker was southbound in the 2400 block of Fleming Street in a 2009 Kawasaki motorcycle when Omar allegedly struck him from behind. Becker was pronounced dead at the scene.
Omar appeared without his defense counsel, Lucille Douglass, in Finney County District Court Thursday before District Judge Robert Frederick for a status hearing that was scheduled to include results of a mental competency evaulation. Omar was scheduled for a second appearance before Frederick on Dec. 4, but the hearing was rescheduled to Dec. 14 and again to Dec. 20, amid difficulties finding a Somali translator for Omar.
Now, the case is being delayed as the court awaits a mental competency evaluation of Omar from Larned State Hospital. The pending evaluation is to determine whether Omar is mentally competent to stand trial.
Omar’s next status hearing is set for 9 a.m. May 10, but Frederick noted that the date could be accelerated if results from Larned come sooner.
Douglass communicated with Judge Frederick Thursday in the courtroom over speakerphone and noted that Omar’s medical records requested from Minnesota show that Omar had prior inpatient treatment for visual and auditory hallucinations. Douglass asked if those details should be provided to Larned for the evaluation, and Frederick said he wasn’t sure but that he would “suspect his medical records would be very relevant to him.”
According to Nolo, a legal press and advocacy group, competency to stand trial is legally unrelated to a defendant’s mental state at the time he or she commits a crime. Among factors of consideration in determining competency are the defendant’s abilities to communicate with defense counsel, understand and process information, make decisions regarding the case, and understand the charges and possible penalties.
Police say Omar showed signs of impairment when officers made contact with him and conducted a field sobriety test the night of the accident. In addition to the second-degree murder charge, he faces charges of reckless driving and driving under the influence.
According to a police affidavit, Omar told police that on the night of the accident, he was intoxicated by a combination of alcohol and something similar to betel nuts, a potent stimulant found in parts of east Africa and Asia.
The affidavit also noted that during a police interview conducted with the assistance of a Somali translator on Oct. 8, Omar said he saw the motorcycle prior to impact but added that the motorcycle “stopped suddenly” without any indication of a brake light or turn signal. He told police that at no time during the accident did he take his foot off of his accelerator, and said that it was “the will of God” that the accident occurred.
Contact Mark Minton at [email protected].