- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A Mississippi man convicted in 2012 in the death of his girlfriend has won a new trial because a judge failed to conduct a hearing into his arguments of mental disability.

The state Court of Appeals, in a 9-1 ruling Tuesday, said a Walthall County judge thought there were enough questions about Robert Wayne Silvia’s competency to order an examination. The trial judge never held a hearing on the results of the examination.

Appeals Court Judge Joseph Lee said court rules clearly require a competency hearing be held once a trial court orders a psychiatric evaluation.

Judge Virginia Carlton, in a lone dissent, said Silvia was examined by a doctor but defense attorneys failed to ask for a hearing on the results so the trial judge didn’t hold one. Carlton said there was no error by the trial court.

Silvia, now 60, was convicted of murder in Walthall County in the 2010 fatal shooting of his live-in girlfriend at their home in Jayess in Lawrence County. Silvia was sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors said deputies found Darlene Berthelot’s body in a freezer on June 10, 2010, after responding to a call from her daughter, who lived in Louisiana, asking them to check on her. A medical examiner said Berthelot, 52, had been dead about four or five days before her body was found.

In his appeal, Silvia did not deny he killed Berthelot. Instead, he argues the shooting occurred while he was in a state of hopeless despair and intoxication because Berthelot was going to leave him.

Silvia was represented by the Criminal Appeals Clinic at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Since 2002, law school students have represented indigent defendants in criminal appeals before the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Third-year law students prepare and file briefs and have often argued cases before those courts.

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