The mental health of Floyd Palmer, the suspect in the World Changers Church International shooting case, and his past, which included a mosque shooting incident a decade ago, are being reviewed as part of the due diligence process, one of his lawyers told The Christian Post on Friday.
Attorneys Drew Findling and Marissa Goldberg were retained by Palmer's family last week to represent the 52-year-old suspect in last month's fatal shooting at the Rev. Creflo Dollar's church in Atlanta. On Friday, his new defense team appeared before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Karen Woodson, asking to reset a preliminary hearing to give them time to review the facts of the case and get to know their client.
According to The Associated Press, Findling said during Friday's court hearing that Palmer's mental competency must be evaluated during the criminal case against him.
Asked about Findling's comment, defense lawyer Marissa Goldberg told The Christian Post that it was "too early" to know if Palmer's mental competency would need to be evaluated.
"At this point, it's too early for us to say that. We were just retained the other day and we are really just doing our due diligence and looking into everything that can, his health obviously being one of those things and the past situation that occurred ten years ago is another," Goldberg told CP.
Palmer is accused of fatally shooting 39-year-old Greg McDowell at World Changers Church International. According to police, Palmer walked into the church as McDowell was leading a morning prayer service and fired six shots, killing McDowell.
The motivation behind the shooting is still unknown.
Palmer's mental health and competency is an issue in the World Changers shooting case because he spent 18 months in a psychiatric hospital in 2004 after being charged for a mosque shooting. Police records also show that Palmer shot a co-worker while he was a security guard at a Baltimore mosque in June 2001.
During a psychological evaluation before the trial, Palmer said the shooting happened in part because he thought he was targeted by NFL player Ray Lewis and members of his own family, according to AP.
Although Goldberg would not specifically comment on Palmer's case, she explained that a psychologist or psychiatrist would need to be brought in to make an evaluation of mental competency.
She would also not say whether the defense team pursue an insanity plea.
There are two separate issues in a case when dealing with possible mental health issues, Goldberg told CP. One is competency--whether the person charged in the case understands what is going and can participate in his defense. The second is an insanity defense, she said.
Goldberg said she and Findling met with Palmer for a couple of hours Thursday.
"We're just getting to know him."
Both attorneys are expected to meet the judge and prosecutors Nov. 29 for a status conference. No date has been set for the preliminary hearing.
Palmer was an employee of the megachurch led by Dollar "until he resigned," according to a report by Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
McDowell, a father of two, was buried on Oct. 30. During a Bible study held after the shooting, Dollar described McDowell as "one of our very faithful, loving, kind servant-volunteers."
"This is a very tragic situation. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the family of the victim in this case," said Goldberg to CP. "Obviously, our focus is on Mr. Palmer and providing him with the best defense possible."