OTTUMWA — Proceedings in an Ottumwa murder case are on hold so the defendant can receive a psychological evaluation.
Preston Martin faces charges of first-degree murder, burglary and robbery in the May death of Thomas Foster. The murder charge is a Class A felony, which requires a life sentence if he is convicted. The other charges are Class B felonies, and each carries up to 25 years in prison.
Martin’s attorney sought the evaluation and asked the court for a competency hearing. Both state and federal law require people accused of crimes to be competent to assist in their defenses. They must understand what the charges are and be able to communicate effectively with their attorneys.
Nicole Jensen, Martin’s lawyer, said that’s not the case with him. In a filing she told the court Martin “cannot carry a coherent conversation, provides information that is simply not factual, and because of this is unable to address matters pertaining to his case with his counsel.”
Prosecutors filed a response, saying they do not oppose suspension of the case so Judge Greg Milani can make a decision. The filing did not concede Martin is incompetent to stand trial, but rather said prosecutors “had discussions with the defense and there is agreement that the Defendant should be evaluated.”
The prosecution filing also said both sides reserve the right to seek a second evaluation.
Milani, who has been assigned to the case, ordered Martin assessed at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center. The facility is the first stop for anyone sentenced to serve time in an Iowa prison but also has “the only licensed, inpatient mental health unit within the Department of Corrections,” according to the IDOC. No date was set for the evaluation, but Milani ordered the Wapello County Sheriff’s Department to transport Martin to the center when it is ready for him.
A written report is due back to Milani within 10 days of the evaluation.