Apr 18, 2012 6:52 AM by AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A former New Orleans police officer who was sentenced to death for arranging a woman's killing in 1994 is distancing himself from a defense attorney's claim he has a serious mental impairment that rendered him incompetent to stand trial.
Len Davis is representing himself during his post-conviction proceedings. During a telephone call from prison Tuesday, Davis told U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan he didn't authorize his standby counsel to ask Berrigan last month to overturn his death sentence or order a new trial. Capital Appeals Project attorney Sarah Ottinger and federal public defender Rebecca Hudsmith have said Davis shouldn't have been allowed to represent himself and will be executed if they don't act on his behalf. A date for Davis' execution was expected to be set last month if he didn't challenge his death sentence.
Davis has never been properly evaluated by a reliable mental health expert, the defense lawyers said, adding that he has symptoms consistent with bipolar disorder and may be suffering from schizophrenia and paranoia. His condition has grown worse while on death row, they said.
A court filing says Davis told Berrigan he wants to adopt some of the defense attorneys' arguments but he wouldn't consent to anyone challenging his mental competency.
Davis was convicted of directing a drug dealer, Paul Hardy, to kill Kim Groves after she filed a brutality complaint against him after she saw his partner pistol-whip somebody in her neighborhood. FBI agents tapped Davis' phone as part of an undercover drug investigation and taped his order to Hardy and recorded his joyful reaction to news that Groves had been shot.
Hardy, who Davis protected in exchange for favors, originally was sentenced to death for the crime. Berrigan, however, ruled that Hardy is mentally retarded and isn't eligible to be executed.
Damon Causey, a third man convicted in Groves' killing, is serving a life sentence.