Jury to decide if Odessa teen charged with killing parents is co - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Jury to decide if Odessa teen charged with killing parents is competent to stand trial

James Gabriel "Gabe" McDonald is charged with capital murder. (Source: Justin Low, defense attorney) James Gabriel "Gabe" McDonald is charged with capital murder. (Source: Justin Low, defense attorney)
ODESSA, TX (KWES) -

A competency trial will be held for an Odessa teen charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of his parents, his attorney confirmed Tuesday.

Gabe McDonald, 17, was arrested in March and later admitted during a police interview to shooting his mother and father, officials said.

An independent expert retained by his legal team conducted extensive interviews with McDonald and determined in May the teen lacked sufficient understanding of criminal proceedings and the ability to adequately participate in his own defense.

However, prosecutors later consulted an expert who disputed the findings, leaving the issue of competency to be decided by a jury.

The murder case "will more than likely" go to trial "at some point," said Justin Low, McDonald's Odessa-based attorney.

His client could eventually "be brought to competency," he added.

The murkier issue, Low said, is the lingering question of sanity.

"In a nutshell, [it's] the ability to understand the difference between right and wrong," he said. "It's something our expert has not determined with Gabe yet."

An accused criminal can be found competent to stand trial but also be declared insane, Low explained, rendering them not guilty.

"Something's not right, but [Gabe] is aware he's in jail right now," he said. "He doesn't talk a lot. He smiles a lot. He nods his head a lot... But the communication has been the issue."

A date has not been set for the competency trial. It could be scheduled as early as December, according to Low.

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