Is This Man Fit for Trial? No Answer Yet

Bronx Hall of Justice

West Spruill was scheduled to appear at the Bronx County Hall of Justice on March 22, but he didn’t show. (Photo credit: aveira via Visual hunt /CC BY-NC)

Judge Margaret Clancy was not surprised when she heard that defendant West Spruill had taken the bus all the way from Rikers Island to the Bronx County Hall of Justice only to refuse to disembark for his appearance. Spruill, 40, is accused of murdering and sexually assaulting Ana Isabel Charle, a Bronx shelter director, last April—one of several recent high profile cases of violence in the homeless shelter system. Since his arraignment last spring, Spruill’s interaction with the courts has been problematic. After bad conduct in the courtroom over the summer, Judge Clancy had allowed him to attend court via teleconference. But his last appearance via phone ended with Spruill abruptly hanging up on the judge.

Police say Spruill waited for Charle outside the Bronx Boulevard shelter on the night of April 27, 2015, and then assaulted and fatally shot the 36-year-old mother of two. Charle had been the director of the Project Renewal-run shelter—for men with mental health issues—since its opening at the end of 2013. According to The New York Times, Spruill had lived at Bronx Boulevard, now called Ana’s Place, for around six months before being transferred to a Manhattan shelter, four months prior to Charle’s murder.

Judge Clancy scheduled this March 22 in-person court appearance to explain to the defendant that his behavior in the video conferences could affect the proceedings, including Spruill’s right to represent himself, something he has requested in the past.

Even if Spruill had appeared, other progress would not have been made on the case, because the court awaits results of a psychiatric evaluation, ordered to determine if Spruill is fit to stand in court. This evaluation was ordered by the New York County courts, where Spruill reportedly faces a charges for attempted robbery. Judge Clancy said she expects the evaluation to take place by mid-April. If that report deems Spruill unfit to stand, his attorney, Patrick Joyce, may dispute the findings. However, Spruill has also recently refused a videoconference with his lawyer.

Judge Clancy asked Joyce to try again to contact his client, who was taken back to Rikers after refusing to exit the bus. She set his next appearance for May 10, when the psychiatric results should be available to the court.