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Judge again finds death row inmate competent

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A federal judge in Indianapolis has found that a death row inmate is competent to assist his attorneys and proceed with a five-year-old habeas appeal that's been stayed twice because of mental health concerns.

The ruling Tuesday from U.S. Judge Larry J. McKinney clears the way for habeas proceedings against condemned inmate Eric Holmes, who was sentenced to die in 1992 by Special Judge Cynthia Emkes for the 1989 double murder and robbery of his former managers at Shoney's Restaurant in Castleton.

After exhausting his appeals in state courts, Holmes in 2004 filed a habeas corpus petition in the Southern District of Indiana, which denied the writ request that year. But Holmes appealed based on grounds that he wasn't competent, and the 7th Circuit twice remanded the question to the trial level to determine that issue. The second remand was October 2007 and now Judge McKinney has again determined Holmes is competent to proceed with the habeas appeal.

Citing other civil actions Holmes has filed and testimony he's given showing an understanding of his legal position, as well as how Holmes' counsel hasn't outlined how the client would need to assist them, Judge McKinney determined that Holmes "does not experience symptoms or cognitive condition which affect his ability to provide such assistance to counsel as is necessary to enable the claim to habeas corpus relief to be prosecuted adequately by his counsel in the pending appeal."

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