Winters murder defendant skips court as mental competency debated

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WOODLAND — Yolo County prosecutors are seeking a competency trial for a Sacramento man accused of sexually assaulting and drowning his 4-year-old daughter in Winters last year.

For the second time, the defense attorney for Markeese Leavell Carter has declared a doubt regarding his client’s mental competency to stand trial. A psychological evaluation conducted earlier this year found he understood the nature of the legal proceedings and had the ability to assist in his defense.

The case had been progressing toward a June trial when public defender Ron Johnson again questioned Carter’s competency in May, a move that again suspended the criminal proceedings until another evaluation could be done.

However, Carter reportedly has refused to meet with the doctor appointed by the court to evaluate him, and he also has fought efforts to transport him from the Yolo County Jail to the Woodland courthouse for his last several court hearings.

Carter’s resistance has proved frustrating for the attorneys in the case, including prosecutor Carolyn Palumbo, who on Monday — with Carter again absent — asked Yolo Superior Court Judge Paul Richardson to put the competency issue before a jury.

“This case has been in limbo since May 12,” Palumbo said, referring to the date Johnson most recently expressed a competency doubt.

Palumbo added that there’s a difference between being unable to assist with his defense and being unwilling, and she believes Carter is willingly refusing to cooperate.

Johnson, meanwhile, said it’s too soon to take the issue to trial. He asked that the matter be postponed until next week, during which time the psychologist can again try to meet with Carter, or prepare his evaluation based on interviews with jail medical staff and others who have daily interactions with the defendant.

Richardson set Carter’s next hearing for July 18, and Palumbo asked that both the psychologist and Carter be present in court, even if it requires Carter to be extracted from his jail cell.

Sheriff’s personnel have said that extraction may be the only way to get Carter to court if he continues to resist, Richardson noted Monday. “The concern, of course, is somebody getting hurt — jail personnel as well as the defendant,” he said.

Carter, 26, is charged with murder, sexual assault of a child under age 10 and resisting arrest in connection with the Nov. 19, 2017, death of his daughter Aminatu-Amaya Abdul-Raafi.

Yolo County Sheriff’s Detective Juan Ceja testified at Carter’s December preliminary hearing that Carter believed the girl was not his biological child, but rather that of a friend he suspected of having an affair with his wife.

That led to an argument between the couple, after which Carter took Amaya and her younger sister to visit his mother at the El Rio Villas housing complex just outside of Winters.

“The plan was to frame his friend, that his friend kidnapped his daughter and sexually assaulted her,” Ceja testified. He said Carter admitted to slipping antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications into Amaya’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich as he and the girls picnicked along Putah Creek.

When the pills failed to kill her, however, Carter changed his plan and threw Amaya into the creek, telling relatives she had wandered away from him and fallen into the water, Ceja said.

Carter picked up a second criminal case while at the jail after he allegedly threw fecal matter and urine at two correctional officers who were attempting to handcuff him in order to provide medical treatment on March 20.

Carter has entered not-guilty pleas in both cases. His family claims he suffers from mental-health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming from a stint in the National Guard.

— Reach Lauren Keene at or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene


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