‘We know there’s going to be another victim’: Davidson Co. DA

Before shooting of Belmont student, District Attorney General Glenn Funk predicted there would be another victim of a criminal deemed “incompetent.”
Before shooting of Belmont student, District Attorney Glenn Funk predicted there would be another victim of a criminal deemed “incompetent."
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 8:01 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Just 12 days before police said Belmont student Jillian Ludwig was shot and critically injured by a man who had been recently released from jail without prosecution, district attorney Glenn Funk predicted a crime such as this could occur.

Funk spoke with WSMV4 Investigates for our investigation that showed hundreds of criminals in Nashville who cannot be prosecuted, because they are deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Because district attorneys are forbidden by the Supreme Court to prosecute those who are determined not to be fit to understand the trial process or the crimes they’ve committed, their charges are dismissed and they are released back out onto the streets, often reoffending.

Funk expressed his concern in our interview for potential new victims.

Our investigation found that an estimated 229 criminals in Nashville who commit misdemeanor crimes and are found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial are released back onto the streets without prosecution.

That number is likely higher when those with felony charges are also deemed to be incompetent to stand trial.

Marquitas Hodge, a criminal with more than 100 charges, was featured in our reporting as a person with the “incompetent” designation who commits misdemeanor crimes like criminal trespass and indecent exposure but cannot be prosecuted.

Just before our first story aired in our “IN CRISIS” reporting, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDDS) recommended Hodge be committed to a mental health facility for an involuntary hospitalization.

If that happens, Hodge will likely never be deemed competent to stand trial, but he will be committed for an indefinite period, getting treatment, and will be off the streets of Nashville.

But Taylor’s case is different.

In a news release from the district attorney’s office, prosecutors said they wanted to prosecute Taylor on April 13 for aggravated assault.

According to the news release, three court appointed doctors unanimously testified that Taylor was incompetent to stand trial, but the doctors did not find he met the standards for involuntary commitment.

It meant Taylor was released from jail on May 19, his charges dropped.

Seven months later, police say he shot Ludwig on the track in the Edgehill Community Memorial Gardens Park.

In the news release, Funk is cited as saying, “Under Tennessee law, for a person to be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, at least two doctors must have executed certificates that the person is suffering from a severe mental illness or developmental disability that causes the person to be a substantial risk of serious harm to himself or others. The doctors must also find that there are no other less restrictive measures than commitment. This nearly impossible standard impacts public safety. The law must be altered to accurately balance individual needs with public safety. At the same time Tennessee must provide more beds and staffing resources to handle dangerous individuals.”

There is another important designation between misdemeanor offenders and felony offenders deemed “incompetent.”

If a felony offender, determined to be incompetent, is determined to have a mental illness, then funding exists to send that offender to a mental hospital to be evaluated for 30 days in the hopes that with medication and education, the person can be later found competent and face justice.

But for misdemeanor offenders with the same designation, there is no state funding, and Funk said it’s simply too expensive for local municipalities to afford the expense.

But legislation, introduced during Governor Bill Lee’s special session, calls for the state to pay for competency training for misdemeanor offenders.

The legislation passed the House, but the Senate opted not to take up any other legislation that wasn’t related to gun control.

Also, in Taylor’s case, he was not deemed to have a mental illness, but rather an “intellectual” disability, which meant he was sent to DIDDS, not a mental facility.

Two DIDDS doctors, as well as another from Vanderbilt’s Forensic Evaluation team, found he was not committable.

This report is among a series of investigations we are calling, “IN CRISIS,” in which we’re exposing how the people of Middle Tennessee are being impacted by the cross-section of crime and the mentally ill.

If you have a story that you’d like us to investigate, you can tell us here.