Judge delays setting bond for Chester murder defendant

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comFebruary 2, 2013 

— For the second time since his arrest, a Chester murder defendant’s chance at leaving jail was halted when a Circuit Court judge opted not to set his bond until receiving test results gauging his competency to stand trial.

On Thursday, Sixth Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith said he wouldn’t set bond for Aris Nichols, accused of stabbing his pregnant girlfriend and killing her unborn child in April, until a mental evaluation by the state Department of Mental Health is completed, said Solicitor Doug Barfield.

Nichols is charged with attempted murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature and death to a child in utero due to the commission of a violent crime.

On April 26, police who were called to a mobile home just west of downtown Chester found Brittany Jordan, 21, in a bedroom, bleeding from her neck and head, according to police documents.

Jordan was hospitalized in Columbia after the attack, but her unborn son, Tavaris, didn’t survive.

Police arrested Nichols, initially charging him with criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. Days later, officials charged him with attempted murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

After prosecutors spent weeks researching a 2006 state law that identifies unborn children as victims of violent crime, they charged Nichols with killing Tavaris.

Nichols’ lawyer, Sixth Circuit Chief Public Defender Mike Lifsey, asked Goldsmith if he would set bond on Nichols although test results hadn’t come back yet.

The judge didn’t “entertain” the thought of setting bond until those results were in hand, Lifsey said.

“There was no substantive hearing today,” Barfield said Thursday. He added that Jordan suffers residual effects of Nichols’ attack.

In June, Goldsmith refrained from setting bond on Nichols the first time after hearing arguments from Lifsey and prosecutors who agreed that there needed to be more probing into Nichols’ ability to competently stand trial. According to Lifsey, his client has an extensive mental health history, including prior evaluations requested by other attorneys.

Lifsey said in June that, as far as he could tell, Nichols hadn’t received a full evaluation in several years. Conversations with Nichols also raised concerns that his client has “mental health issues” the court should consider, Lifsey said then.

Lifsey would not go into detail about those talks, but he did say he spoke with Nichols’ mother, a former employer and his pastor – all of whom agree that it’s best for a state hospital to determine Nichols’ mental well-being.

Nichols has been sent to Columbia to be tested twice, once in September and once in October, Barfield said, adding that he expects the results to return at “anytime.”

Lifsey said he would need to look at the results himself before he decides how to proceed with the case.

“We’ll move forward with the case…that might involve bond, but it depends,” he said.

Nichols remains jailed at the Chester County Detention Center without bond.

• Jonathan McFadden •  (803) 329-4082 • 

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