BENTON — Brian Pheasant will not appear before a jury this year to face the charge that he killed his wife last year.
Pheasant, the Christopher man who was charged last year in the murder of his wife, Beth Pheasant, appeared before Judge Thomas Tedeschi at the Franklin County Courthouse Thursday, where a motion filed by the state Sept. 19 requesting Pheasant be mentally evaluated was approved.
The motion came after defense attorney Paula Newcomb filed a defendant notice Sept. 13, which said the “defendant may request to offer a proposed jury instruction for guilty but mentally ill in this case as he was suffering from severe depression at the time of the incident.” Responding to this clause, Franklin County State’s Attorney Evan Owens’ office said in its motion that this instruction would not be proper because the defense has not raised an insanity defense. However, the motion also said that “it appears that the defense is anticipating a plea of guilty but mentally ill or is otherwise asserting a mental defense,” which prompted the request to have Pheasant evaluated.
Owens said that any time the defense brings up or even alleges any type of insanity or mental competency plea, the state has the right to have the defendant evaluated.
Because the evaluation is slated to take at least 30 to 60 days, and because Newcomb said she can disagree with the evaluation and order one of her own, further delaying trial, the court again moved to continue the trial which was slated to begin Tuesday.
The court said it will be contacting Dr. Daniel Cuneo, of Belleville, to check his availability to perform the evaluation.
Pheasant has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Nov. 9 and is scheduled to sit before a jury in March of next year.
Pheasant is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting death on Halloween last year of Beth Pheasant, 37, who was a mother of six.
Since Pheasant was arrested last year, his trial has had its share of setbacks, most notably a squabble over DNA testing earlier this year.
During a January motion hearing, Newcomb took issue with the fact that only one swab was used to collect DNA from three locations on the pistol allegedly used in the death. Judge Eric Dirnbek said her objection seemed to be on the grounds that there could be other DNA in the test than what was listed in the motion by the state and that this seemed to be wishful thinking.
Newcomb ultimately settled for being present during testing, and in a February hearing both the state and the defense agreed to attend a Feb. 24 appointment to witness the testing of DNA gathered from the firearm allegedly used in the murder.