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St. Clair Shores

June 24, 2013

Defendant ruled competent to stand trial

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

Nearly a year after he was ruled incompetent to stand trail, 63-year-old Viktor Shaholli is set to have a preliminary examination in the case against him after 40th District Court Judge Mark Fratarcangeli ruled him competent to stand trial on murder charges.

Shaholli faces charges of homicide first-degree murder, which carries a penalty of life in prison, and a 2-year felony firearms charge for allegedly shooting 29-year-old Dashamir Matjani Nov. 20, 2011, in a home in the 23000 block of Recreation. Matjani died from his injuries at McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens.

On June 19, 2012, Fratarcangeli ruled that Shaholli was not competent to stand trial on the charges. But a month after that, the case was back in court with new evidence from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry stating that Shaholli was competent.

That started a new competency hearing, with days of testimony spread over 10 months. After hearing more testimony on June 7, including results from an MRI examination, Fratarcangeli said June 21 he was not convinced that Shaholli was incompetent any longer.

“The burden of proof is on the defendant to substantiate the defense of being unable to understand the nature of the proceedings,” Fratarcangeli explained while Matjani’s sister, Allie Matjani of St. Clair Shores, sat in the audience.

He said he did not believe defense attorney Timothy Barkovic exceeded that burden with testimony from Dr. Gerald Shiener of Birmingham.

“There were numerous specialists who indicated that the defendant can comprehend the nature of the proceedings currently before him, and can assist in the defense of this case,” Fratarcangeli said. “After review of the testimony, the court finds that the defendant is competent and is able to understand the nature of the proceedings.”

Assistant Prosecutor Steven Fox of the Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said that a half-dozen doctors and expert witnesses testified that Shaholli is competent to stand trial.

But Barkovic argued that Shiener’s testimony itself indicates a professional diagnosis of vascular dementia, which suggests that Shaholli is incompetent. Speaking before the ruling, Barkovic said in all the times he has communicated with his client through an interpreter speaking Albanian, he has not been able to “get beyond the most elementary questions.” Shaholli is an Albanian native in the U.S. with a green card.

“I think that he’s suffering from just an early form of Alzheimer’s, some type of dementia,” Barkovic said. “Not profound yet, but to the extent that he doesn’t meet the legal criteria” of competency.

Fratarcangeli did not agree.

“There were numerous specialists who indicated that the defendant can comprehend the nature of the proceedings currently before him and can assist in the defense of this case,” he said. “The court finds that the defendant is competent and is able to understand the nature of the proceedings.”

Fox said that the doctors at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry believe that Shaholli is not being truthful about his level of understanding.

“That was the opinion of every expert except (the) defense’s, he was malingering,” Fox said.

With the competency ruling, Shaholli was expected to be moved from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry to the Macomb County Jail.

Barkovic said he will be filing a motion to ask that Shaholli be granted a disability coordinator to help meet his “special needs” with regard to his “severe, substantial, medical illness.”

The case will proceed with a preliminary examination at 8:30 a.m. July 2.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.