- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Jurors found a northwest Alabama man mentally competent to stand trial in the gunshot killings of his parents, who prosecutors contend were slain in a dispute about money.

The TimesDaily (http://bit.ly/1pGK4xZ ) reported Friday that a jury deliberated about an hour Thursday before making the finding about Michael Joe McLemore, 28.

A judge set a tentative trial date for September.

McLemore is charged with capital murder in the 2011 shooting deaths of his parents, Ricky and Connie Hodge, who lived near Phil Campbell. McLemore is accused of using a rifle to kill the two after they wouldn’t give him money.

He also is charged with attempted murder in an alleged assault on two people who were hit with a hammer.

McLemore’s attorney, Rebecca Thomason, said her client does not understand the charges he faces. The man could be sentenced to death if convicted on the capital counts.

“My client still right now has only one question and that’s if he can take his colors and coloring books with him,” Thomason said.

Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said prosecutors were able to produce key evidence to convince jurors McLemore was competent.

“The evidence of him speaking his own words on recordings at the time it happened showed the jurors he was competent of knowing what he was doing,” Rushing said.

Rushing also cited the testimony of two psychologists who said McLemore would communicate with them until the topic of the crime was mentioned.

“They made the decision that he was not a person with any kind of psychosis, but was just uncooperative and refused to cooperate,” he said.

Alabama law lets juries consider mental competency issues before trial.

Testimony included statements from Marcia Smith, Connie Hodge’s sister, who was attacked with a hammer. McLemore is also accused of attacking Smith’s cousin, Royce Riddle, with a hammer.

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