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Gazette Premium Content Defendant in murder case ousted from courtroom after outburst

LANCE BENZEL Updated: November 15, 2012 at 12:00 am

A Colorado Springs murder suspect whose bizarre outbursts in court this summer led to renewed concerns over his mental condition was again ejected from a courtroom Thursday as attorneys met to address a recent competency evaluation.

Two El Paso County sheriff’s deputies removed Marcus Allen Smith, 22, from court after he launched into an obscenity-laced tirade.

“You’re fired!” Smith shouted to defense attorney Jennifer Stock before directing vitriol at the presiding judge, Barbara L. Hughes.

Shouting continued as deputies escorted Smith out a back courtroom door. What triggered his latest outburst is unclear.

The case against Smith, who is accused of strangling an 87-year-old Colorado Springs woman during a 2011 burglary and then setting her body ablaze at a popular trailhead in the foothills overlooking the city, was delayed earlier this year when Hughes agreed to reopen an inquiry into whether Smith is mentally fit to stand trial on suspicion of first-degree murder and other counts.

Hughes previously ruled that Smith was competent, but agreed to revisit the question after Smith’s bizarre behavior. In August, the defendant showed up to his arraignment hearing with a shaved head, no eyebrows and a jail jumpsuit covered with nonsensical phrases scrawled in Magic Marker.

“If you’re lying you’re not the law,” a handcuffed Smith shouted in court that day, after commandeering the podium. “The truth is the law. I didn’t say ‘guilty.’ I didn’t say ‘not guilty.’ I didn’t say ‘insanity.’ I didn’t say any of this stuff.”

Smith’s attorneys say he now answers to “Kunta Kinte,” the name of a slave from the classic television miniseries “Roots,” and argue that he is unable to understand the charges against him.

At Thursday’s hearing, a report detailing Smith’s second competency evaluation by the Colorado State Mental Health Institute in Pueblo was turned over to attorneys.

Judge Hughes scheduled a second competency hearing for Jan. 24, though prosecutors said in court Thursday they intend to ask Hughes to block the review, arguing he isn’t entitled to a second hearing.

If the court determines that Smith is incompetent to stand trail, his prosecution will be held in abeyance pending treatment.

Smith is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 23, 2011, slaying of Kathryn “Kit” Grazioli, a former church deacon who was strangled by an intruder who broke in through her bedroom window, police testified in June. Grazioli’s burning remains were found at the Captain Jack’s trailhead off Gold Camp Road.

Smith, whose criminal record includes prior burglaries, was arrested within days, carrying her credit cards in his pocket, police said.

Contact Lance Benzel: 636-0366 Twitter @lancebenzel

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