Judge says death row inmate competent for trial, appeals

AP, Dec. 18, 2002

LINCOLN (AP) – A federal magistrate has ruled that Michael W. Ryan, who is on Nebraska’s death row for a torture murder, was mentally competent to stand trial and make appeals in the case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Piester also ruled the former religious cult leader’s right to a fair trial was not compromised when the trial judge turned his back on Ryan during his testimony.

Mike Nelsen of Omaha, one of Ryan’s attorneys, said Monday that he would ask U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf to review Piester’s 93-page report.

Ryan has been on death row since 1986 for the torture death of James Thimm on a farm near Rulo.

Attorneys for Ryan argue in the latest petition that he is not competent to appeal his case. They also argue that his waiver of the mental health issue in his earlier appeals should be tossed out since he lacked the competence to make the waiver.

In his order, Piester concluded the competency waiver in the earlier appeals was moot because evidence supported a finding that Ryan was competent to stand trial.

The judge also said a psychiatrist at the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Mo., testified she saw no signs of mental illness in Ryan while he was there.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday December 18, 2002.
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