Man accused of Ithaca homicide found not competent to stand trial

Justin Barkley is taken back to the Tompkins County Jail after a court hearing Jan. 6. Photo by Alyvia Covert/The Ithaca Voice

ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca man Justin Barkley was found not competent to stand trial Thursday morning for allegedly murdering a Candor man in a Wal-mart parking lot in December because he thought the man was president-elect Donald Trump.

Barkley, 38, is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly shooting and running over William Schumacher on Dec. 8. He's also charged with menacing a police officer or peace officer after shooting at two police officers and ensuing a nearly eight-hour standoff with multiple law enforcement agencies before surrendering.

In court, Judge John Rowley said a clerical error initially led him, both attorneys and court officials to believe that two psychiatric examiners were split on whether Barkley was competent. This led to the call for a third examiner to meet with Barkley. That third examination never happened after the clerk noticed that on the backside of one of the reports, additional information was provided that clarified that the examiner found Barkley not competent.

Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski provided the court a six-page memorandum that reportedly would ultimately help determine the defendant's competency to stand trial. District Attorney Matt Van Houten said the memorandum was submitted for the court's long-term consideration.

However, Rowley was unconvinced by the memorandum.

He said the DA's office is not comprised of medical professionals and questioned why the office would disagree with the findings, seemingly, based on nothing.

"I'm baffled," Rowley said. "I think you do a disservice to the public."

Rowley held that Barkley should be submitted to psychiatric facility for further evaluation.

Van Houten said after the decision that his office is committed to seeing this case through a conviction.

"The standard is, 'Is he able to assist in his own defense and understand the proceedings against him?' It's not, 'Was he competent at the time of the offense?' That is a different issue. That's an issue he could or may not raise at the time of trial," Van Houten said.

He said psychiatrists found that Barkley understands the court proceedings, and even if he still believes he shot Donald Trump, he is subject to stand trial.

Schumacher's family has been to every court proceeding since Barkley's arrest and was in the front row of the courtroom again Thursday morning.

"They're very upset about this. They believe that he is competent. They believe that he is malingering. They're frustrated with lack of closure. But we're assuring them that they will have closure at some point and the process will run its course," Van Houten said. "Based upon what's on the record, our position is that he is capable of assisting in his own defense, that he simply doesn't want to."

While there is no hard and fast rule about how long Barkley will be submitted to a psychiatric evaluation, Van Houten said he expects the process to take a few months. Afterward, mental health professionals could decide if he's competent for trial or if he will continue to be held, possibly indefinitely.

When asked about whether he thinks Barkley's previous employment with the New York State Office of Mental Health could mean he's able to game the system, Van Houten said that anything is possible, but it will be up to professionals to make a decision about whether that is playing a role in Barkley's actions.

Barkley previously said in court that he is confident that he killed President-Elect Donald Trump and has never met a man named William Schumacher.

Related -- Man accused of Ithaca homicide: 'I shot and killed Donald Trump purposely, intentionally and very proudly'

Van Houten said, "This case is not over. We believe that the defendant will be determined to be competent by the next level of evaluation, which will take place at a forensic hospital."

In the mean time, he said, "The most important thing is that Mr. Barkley is not free. The community is safe from him."