Man charged in teen’s murder found incompetent, could go free

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County’s prosecutor isn’t giving up after a judge found a man charged in a 2018 murder incompetent to stand trial.

Prosecutor Chris Becker told News 8 he will either file a motion asking the judge to reconsider or appeal the decision to state court.

After two days of testimony from doctors and psychologists in October, Kent County Judge George Quist ruled Gerald Bennett incompetent to stand trial.

A March 2018 booking photo of Gerald Bennett from the Kent County Correctional Facility.

For now, Bennett, a 61-year-old Detroit native, remains in the Kent County jail. He’s charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the 2018 killing of 16-year-old Mujey Dumbaya.

Police say Bennett helped Quinn James murder Dumbaya and dispose of her body. Investigators said James gave Bennett, who was often homeless, $125 and a 1985 Chevy Caprice for his assistance in Dumbaya’s murder.

mujey-dumbuya 013118
An undated courtesy photo of Mujey Dumbuya.

James is already serving a life sentence for killing the Grand Rapids teenager, whose strangled body was found near a trail in Kalamazoo days after she went missing. Dumbaya was scheduled to testify at trial that James, who was a school custodian, had raped her repeatedly.

“The case involving (Gerald Bennett) is somewhat unique. The Defendant’s competency issues are not related to mental illness. They are related to low cognitive functioning,” Judge Quist wrote in his opinion.

“(The) Defendant has established that he is incompetent to stand trial because he is incapable of understanding the nature and object of the proceedings against him,” his decision continued.

Quist also ruled that no course of treatment would render Bennett competent.

A doctor who testified at the hearing said Bennett’s “significant intellectual impairment is not in dispute.”

“(Bennett) has a long history of mild-to-moderate intellectual impairment (previously referred to as mental retardation), with a Full-Scale IQ of 54-62 placing him in the 1st percentile or lower,” Dr. Daniel Mayman wrote in his report.

A forensic examiner at The Center for Forensic Psychiatry, a state-run facility in Saline, also testified after interviewing Bennett for more than seven hours on three separate occasions.

“Mr. Bennett’s history and current presentation are consistent with intellectual disability; he shows significantly subaverage intellectual functioning,” Dr. Jennifer Whitmore wrote in her report.

“During the course of this evaluation, Mr. Bennett… showed poor ability to understand the crux of his charges or to appreciate his charges in the social/legal scheme,” She continued. “Despite his ability to intermittently respond to posed legal questions with correct responses, this was not consistent over the course of the evaluation sessions. If the same question was posted to Mr. Bennett on multiple occasions, he responded with different answers – some of which were accurate and some of which were inaccurate. Mr. Bennett additionally showed poor emotional control; he frequently and easily became tearful, particularly when becoming cognitively overwhelmed with legal information. His history and current presentation suggest naivete and suggestibility – two common features associated with intellectual disability.”

Quist concluded his order by noting the significance of his ruling.

“The Court is cognizant of the potential for an incredible miscarriage of justice if the Defendant is not tried on the pending charges. However, the applicable law and the evidence presented supports the Court’s findings,” Quist wrote.

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