No trial date in sight for Cooper

Submitted by Scott Johnson on Fri, 12/14/2018 - 15:37
Breaking News Alert

Jimmy Dale Cooper, 59, Hamilton, is seen exiting a courtroom in the Marion County Courthouse following a status hearing which was held on Friday, Dec. 14.

• Cooper still 30th in line for mental evaluation

HAMILTON - Prosecutors and defense attorneys have no estimation for when double-homicide suspect Jimmy Cooper’s case will come to trial.
The trial has been indefinitely set back due to delays with Taylor-Hardin Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa, which is responsible for conducting and reporting Cooper’s mental evaluation.
A trial date had been scheduled tentatively for Dec. 3. However, as no progress had been made on an mental evaluation, the trial setting was postponed.
Instead, a status hearing was held at the Marion County Courthouse on Friday, Dec. 14, for 25th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Lee Carter to hear updates on the case. Cooper was present for the hearing.
Carter said that he was “very frustrated” with the situation.
“I don’t think anyone here is at fault with these delays,” Carter said. “Alabama mental health and Taylor-Hardin are the issue.”
25th Judicial Circuit District Attorney Scott Slatton is prosecuting the case. Cooper is represented by court-appointed attorneys Jake Watson of Huntsville and Brian White of Decatur.
White said that he contacted a liaison for the mental health facility and was told that Cooper is 30th in line for an evaluation.
“That is an improvement over 56th on the list, where he was listed the last time we asked,” White said.
White was told that once Cooper is listed among the first 10 in line, the facility will be able to provide the court with a realistic date for an evaluation.
“I don’t know if there is anything we can do to move this case forward,” Carter said, asking White if he could do anything to have his evaluation expedited.
“There’s nothing I can do,” White said, “but a phone call from a circuit judge may help.”
Carter said that he didn’t believe that it was his responsibility to pressure another department to work quicker, but under this particular circumstance, he said he would reach out.
Carter noted that a ruling in January 2018 required Alabama to provide faster and expanded treatment for people waiting in jail for court-ordered mental health evaluations. This involved adding beds at the facility.
“It seems like there has been no improvement here,” Carter said. “It actually seems like there are more delays now.”
Carter informed the court that 2019 jury trial dates in Marion County are scheduled for March 18, June 4, Sept. 9 and Nov. 18.
He said Winston County jury trial dates are Feb. 19, May 6, Aug. 5 and Oct. 21.
Slatton told the Journal Record that prosecutors would be pursuing the death penalty for Cooper.
Cooper is charged with the Feb. 10, 2016, murders of Hamilton residents Linda Cole and Donny Miller in downtown Hamilton.
Cooper is currently being held in the Marion County Jail in Hamilton without bond.