A Loudoun County Circuit Court judge on Friday ordered a Manassas drug dealer who was convicted of fatally shooting one of his clients and later tried to hang himself to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Judge Thomas D. Horne granted a motion filed by defense attorneys for Tyrone Smith, 21, who was convicted in May of second-degree murder in the slaying of Leesburg resident John G. Zimmerman Jr., 38. Smith has not been sentenced.
Public defender Lorie E. O'Donnell also sought to have Smith's conviction dismissed on the grounds that it was unclear whether Smith understood the court proceedings during his trial. Donnell said Smith's attempt to hang himself in a jail holding cell while awaiting the jury's verdict indicates he might have been incompetent to stand trial.
Horne postponed a ruling on the motion to dismiss the conviction but ordered that Smith undergo a mental health evaluation by Nov. 19. He scheduled a hearing on the evaluation for Dec. 3.
If the evaluation determines that Smith was mentally incompetent during the trial, he could be re-tried, said Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney James P. Fisher. If the evaluation determines he has become mentally incompetent since the trial, Smith could be sent to a mental hospital for treatment, delaying sentencing, Fisher said.
Fisher said the conviction should stand because Smith showed no signs of mental problems until after the trial. Smith was found hanging by bailiffs who had gone to his cell to escort him into the courtroom to hear the verdict, which the jury had already submitted.
"If he became incompetent, assuming that that's true, it happened after the trial," Fisher said in an interview. "You can't say he's not competent now, and let's award him a new trial."
Zimmerman was killed in his apartment on Clubhouse Drive the evening of March 27, 2003. Prosecutors said Smith fired shots from the parking lot into Zimmerman's second-floor apartment after Zimmerman complained about the quality of cocaine he had purchased and cut Smith with a knife.
A Circuit Court jury also convicted Smith of firing a gun into an occupied dwelling, use of a firearm in the commission of a murder and possessing a firearm while also carrying illegal drugs. The jury recommended that Smith spend 35 years in prison.
After his conviction, Smith spent three weeks in Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Va. He has since been held in the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center, where he has been administered "multiple anti-psychotic medications," court documents show.
Smith's attorneys argued that Smith believed he was firing into an empty room with the intention of frightening, not harming, Zimmerman. They said Smith was angry that Zimmerman had cut him.