AUBURN — Leein Hinkley sat rocking in his courtroom chair Tuesday, his head bowed and shaking, his knees pumping, his hands trembling.
His attorney, James Howaniec, argued that his client didn't understand the attempted murder charge against him, couldn't assist in his defense and didn't understand the legal process.
Howaniec called as a witness in Androscoggin County Superior Court a psychologist who twice examined Hinkley, 31, of Sabattus.
Luke Douglass said he didn't think Hinkley was competent to stand trial when they met in March at Androscoggin County Jail. But, two months later, after spending weeks at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta where Hinkley was medicated for anxiety and depression, he seemed better able to understand the charges against him and how the legal system works. If he chose to cooperate and stay on proper medication, Hinkley could be competent to stand trial, Douglass said.
Hinkley was indicted on charges of attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person in a Feb. 27 incident in Lisbon.
Police said Hinkley's girlfriend, Jennifer Alexander, had been driving a car with Hinkley as a passenger. The couple's 14-month-old son, Maxwell, was in the backseat.
Alexander pulled into the driveway of a Lisbon home as the couple argued. The resident at that home, John Clark, heard shouts coming from the car and approached it to investigate. He saw a man punching a woman in the small gray car parked in his driveway, he told police.
He asked Alexander if she needed help. Hinkley had threatened to kill her and had stabbed her several times, police said. As Clark tried to free her from her seat belt, Hinkley stabbed Clark in the shoulder, police said.
When Alexander got out of the car, her son still in the back seat, Hinkley sped away to his parents' home where he picked up a shotgun and fled into nearby woods. He later surrendered to police.
Another witness who testified Tuesday, Lorraine Acheson, said she had met with Hinkley several times since he went to jail.
When she asked him if he understood the seriousness of the charges against him, he denied trying to hurt his girlfriend.
"He said: 'I wouldn't do that. . . . I'd never lay a hand on her,'" Acheson said.
"I don't know that he really realizes what he did," she said. She had known him as a neighbor and family friend before visiting him at the jail at his request, she said. He had asked Acheson, who works as a case manager for Maine Pretrial Services, if she would help him gain admission to the alternative bail program for indigent defendants.
Justice Thomas Warren said he would rule on the issue of Hinkley's competency when Warren learned which medications the defendant is taking while in custody at the jail.
In a separate motion, Warren ruled behind closed doors that Howaniec could withdraw as Hinkley's attorney, citing attorney/client defense issues. That hearing was held in private, out of earshot of prosecutors and the public because it involved discussion of defense strategy. Hinkley is expected to be assigned a new defense lawyer.