A judge has ruled that a 19-year-old mentally retarded Grasonville man is competent to stand trial for the alleged second-degree rape of two underage girls. Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Ross made his decision after hearing the defense and prosecution argue about whether Dickie Larnell Banks could understand the nature of charges he faces related to a September 4, 2009, incident involving a 12-year-old girl and 13-year-old girl and whether he is capable of assisting in his own defense.
“Mr. Banks is competent,” said Ross. “He knows I’m a judge. He knows the issues of right and wrong. He can assist in his defense by telling what he recalls happening.” Quoting federal and state case law, Ross said that “perfect” comprehension is not a condition of competency.
According to charging documents in the case, on the evening of September 3, after Banks received a cell phone call from a 12-year-old girl, he and his cousin, Eric Roy, 20, agreed to meet the girl and her 13-year-old girlfriend in the vicinity of Scottown Road in Queenstown. The four agreed to break into a vacant house at 137 Scottown Road where they listened to music and danced. The documents state that the 12-year-old agreed to go into the bedroom with Banks where they had oral and vaginal sex. The 13-year-old then agreed to accompany Banks to the bedroom where they had vaginal sex. Although the four fled the house when sheriff’s deputies arrived, they were found nearby and questioned.
At the competency hearing, Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Lance Richardson called psychologist Dr. James Tolan of Reisterstown as an expert witness. Tolan said a February 16 evaluation of Banks showed that Banks understood the nature of the charges. Tolan also said he thought Banks was trying to appear incompetent on tests he administered. Banks’ statement that the 12-year-old girl “told him that she was 17 years old” demonstrated that “he appreciated that chronological age was a factor as to whether sex was appropriate,” Tolan told the court.
Tolan said Banks was malingering, or purposely acting in a way that would assure he would be judged incompetent during tests he administered. The number of errors made by Banks on several tests, Tolan argued, showed a “level of accuracy that would (only) happen one in a million times” and defied credibility. “A purposeful attempt to minimize one’s capabilities is potentially in someone’s best interest,” Tolan said.
Assistant Public Defender Michael Pappafotis countered that there is “no question that Dickie Banks is hindered intellectually and mentally.” Dr. Lawrence Donner, an expert witness for the defense, said his March 2 evaluation showed “Mr. Banks is not competent.” The school system deemed Banks mentally retarded for 12 years, said Donner, and a March 2 test revealed his IQ to be 59, while a score of 69 or under is considered mentally retarded. “He’s severely impaired,” said Donner, noting that some of Banks’ functioning was on a first-grade level.
Donner also said Banks didn’t understand the concept of statutory rape. According to the psychologist, “He is a follower,” led by the 12-year-old girl, who Donner pointed out, later said the sex had been consensual. “He doesn’t understand the charges or what could happen to him if he’s convicted,” said Pappafotis. Ross, however, disagreed, saying that neither mental retardation nor IQ equal incompetence.
In two previous juvenile cases involving Banks, the judge noted, “The issue of competency has never come up” even though “four separate fact-finders were involved in his two cases.” Ross said “perfect” comprehension of court proceedings is not required for competency, rather “just some ability to understand the nature of the proceedings and (ability) to assist in defense.” The judge said he was inclined to believe Banks may have been malingering on tests Tolan conducted.
After Ross’s ruling, Pappafotis told him he would ask the court to authorize an expert for the defense to “testify whether Banks was criminally responsible” for the actions he is charged with, something the court will have to determine. Although a trial is set for May 19, Pappafotis said he would ask to have it delayed because he said he had not received forensic evidence from the two girls. He also said there was an issue as to whether statements made by Banks were freely or voluntarily given. The judge asked both parties to return to court May 4, to review these issues and to determine whether the trial can be delayed until after May 19.