Hearing adjourned for second time after murder suspect refuses to appear in court

By: Brian Wells | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 13, 2022

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ROSEVILLE — A motion hearing for a man who continues to refuse to appear in court was adjourned for a second time June 30.

Robert Marcell Walton, 37, of Garden City, is charged with first-degree murder and second-degree arson for allegedly killing his ex-girlfriend, Janisa Sumpter, 39, of Roseville, and setting her home on fire in April 2021.

Walton was arrested after he was seen on surveillance video walking away from the home before the fire started, according to police.

Walton had refused to be transported to Macomb County Circuit Court from the Macomb County Jail when he was scheduled for a motion hearing June 23. When officers at the jail attempted to get him to participate via Zoom, he refused.

The hearing was intended to review the results of a competency evaluation and to discuss a motion to suppress evidence. However, because Walton had refused to cooperate with the Center for Forensic Psychiatry, which services the state’s criminal justice system, a report was written without any information, Walton’s attorney, Kenneth Vernier, said.

However, Vernier said transcripts from prior hearings were to be delivered to the center and a doctor would look at them to learn about Walton’s behavior so a more accurate report could be written.

Due to Walton’s refusal to participate in the June 23 hearing and the absence of the report, the hearing was adjourned one week.

At the rescheduled hearing June 30, Walton again refused to be transported or participate via Zoom. Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Michael Servitto asked Vernier if he’d been able to visit his client at the jail to discuss the matter.

“I attempted to, judge,” Vernier said. “He was unwilling to participate in any discussion with me.”

Servitto said the court had received a report from the center related to Walton’s competency, but it stated that Walton had refused to participate. In a session with the attorneys, Servitto learned that the center had never received the transcripts that had been ordered.

Vernier said he had made several attempts to contact the doctor who wrote the report, but Vernier had been unsuccessful.

Before adjourning the hearing again, Servitto said he would contact the center to notify it that, in addition to the transcripts, the court would be sending video from prior hearings.

“I’m going to contact the forensic center to indicate that we’re going to try to send video; this is a video courtroom, so his behavior should have been captured just so we can be clear as to what his behavior is and there can be no doubts as to any missing information in terms of the examination of his competency,” Servitto said.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Richard Nelson Jr. said he would ensure that the transcripts were sent again.

A new hearing was scheduled for Sept. 1.