Aug 18, 2010 1:43 PM by Melissa Canone

Hurricane Rita Evacuee Has Been Deemed Competent To Stand Trial

A 56-year-old Hurricane Rita evacuee has been deemed competent to stand trial on a second-degree murder charge in the 2005 stabbing death of her sister in Lafayette.

Suzanne Shirley Buckins, an evacuee from Lake Charles, has been incarcerated since her arrest for the November 2005 killing of her sister, 49-year-old Amelia Buckins.

The stabbing occurred during an argument at the Travel Host, a motel.

Suzanne Buckins' case has been on hold since she was deemed incompetent to stand trial in 2006.

On Thursday, state District Judge Edward Rubin set her trial date for Aug. 16 in light of a December evaluation by Dr. Jose Artecona, from the Tulane University School of Medicine.

Artecona found that Buckins scored an 88 on the Georgia Court Competency Test, a standardized instrument designed to assess competency to stand trial. A passing score is 70 and above, according to the evaluation, which was found in court filings.

Artecona wrote in the evaluation that Buckins presently has a rational and factional understanding of the proceedings against her.

"She is aware of the fact that she is being charged with the death of her sister ... Ms. Buckins appreciated that these were very serious charges," Artecona wrote.

Artecona declined to go into further details about Suzanne Buckins' recollection of the event so as not to incriminate her.

"Suffice it to say that she recalls the events surrounding the time of these alleged incidents in quite a lot of detail, and in my opinion should be able to assist her counsel in mounting a defense," he wrote.

Buckins' attorney, Karen Haith, did not return a phone call Friday.

At the time, police said the stabbing occurred during an argument that began shortly after Amelia Buckins arrived at the hotel where Suzanne Buckins had been living for just over a month.

During the argument, Suzanne Buckins allegedly stabbed her sister in the back, police said.

In an April 2006 evaluation, Buckins told Dr. Glenn Ally, a clinical neuropsychologist, that the stabbing was "an accident."

"She states that she wanted money for drugs and she and her sister became involved in an argument," Ally wrote. "She thought her sister was 'just playin.' She said that she really wasn't trying to stab her, but the 'knife just stuck her.'"

Ally wrote that Buckins appeared to suffer from major depression and long-standing drug and alcohol addiction but he believed she was currently competent to stand trial.

In a July 2006 evaluation, Dr. Samir Salama, from the Center for Psychiatric & Addictive Medicine, wrote that Buckins suffered from a schizoaffective disorder and was depressed.

"I believe at this time patient lacks the capability to understand the proceedings against her or engage actively in her defense due to active psychotic condition," he wrote.

He recommended continuous treatment and monitoring at the time.

Buckins faces life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.



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