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Competency at issue in 1992 double slaying in York City

Liz Evans Scolforo
505-5429/@LizScolforoYD

It's been 15 years since an appeals judge threw out the death penalty for convicted York City killer Daniel Jacobs and 11 years since one of his two murder convictions was overturned entirely.

Jacobs, 45, has remained in state prison because his first-degree murder conviction in the drowning death of his baby daughter has withstood his legal challenges. He has exhausted all appeals in that case, according to court testimony Tuesday. He's serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for drowning 7-month-old Holly Danielle Jacobs.

It's his related first-degree murder conviction for the bloody stabbing death of his girlfriend, Tammy Mock, inside their West King Street apartment in February 1992 that was overturned. Appeals attorneys successfully argued that Jacobs' trial attorneys erred by not introducing mitigating testimony, including assertions Jacobs was mentally ill, that his IQ is less than 70 and that he was abused as a child.

Daniel Jacobs

Mock, 18, was stabbed about 200 times. She was Holly's mother.

During his competency hearing on Tuesday in York County Court, two forensic psychiatrists testified about Jacobs' mental health and whether they believe he is competent to stand trial.

Experts disagree: Dr. Julie Kessel, retained by the defense, testified by speakerphone about her history with Jacobs. She first saw him in 1998 and was asked by attorneys to re-evaluate him in 2008, but Jacobs refused to participate, she said.

Kessel said she was able to evaluate Jacobs earlier this year and determined he isn't competent to stand trial.

Under questioning by defense attorney Jeffrey Marshall, Kessel said she diagnosed Jacobs with schizoid personality disorder and said he suffers from paranoid features, mild mental retardation and a cognitive disorder.

Murderer shows 'true self' moments after conviction

She acknowledged during cross-examination by chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker that Jacobs isn't schizophrenic, bipolar or depressed.

Barker then called Dr. Larry Rotenberg to the stand.

Rotenberg first tried to evaluate Jacobs in 2008, but Jacobs refused to participate, according to the doctor. That led him in 2009 to concur that Jacobs was mentally incompetent.

But Rotenberg, like Kessel, found that Jacobs was amenable earlier this year to being evaluated. He said he spoke with Jacobs for 2½ hours in York County Prison.

'Adversarial': Rotenberg told presiding Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness that Jacobs has a longstanding, non-psychotic view of the world that's not particularly treatable with medication. He also said Jacobs has a litigious paranoid personality.

"He gets his gratification in life from constantly being adversarial, constantly being uncooperative," Rotenberg said, adding Jacobs views the world with "ambivalence and suspicion."

"There's not a single person in the world who Mr. Jacobs does not have an ambivalent relationship with," Rotenberg testified. "He's never going to be happy with any lawyer or any judge at any time."

Life sentence for York man who fatally stabbed pregnant girlfriend

Jacobs understands the charges against him, understands the trial process and isn't intellectually disabled, according to Rotenberg, who noted the inmate isn't a discipline problem, reads quite a bit and plays chess.

Rotenberg diagnosed Jacobs with paranoid personality disorder and determined Jacobs is competent to stand trial.

'Witty manipulator': According to the doctor, Jacobs will use his "capacity to manipulate his environment" to challenge the court's limits and make life difficult for his attorney, but he also can be "witty, charming and urbane."

Jacobs wants to represent himself and wants Marshall removed from his case. He has already succeeded in having another attorney removed.

After testimony from the two psychiatrists, Judge Ness asked Jacobs a number of questions designed to reveal whether Jacobs understands enough of the legal system to represent himself.

He correctly answered that he's charged with first-degree murder, that a conviction on that charge requires prosecutors to prove a specific intent to kill, and he knows the lesser charge of third-degree murder is a killing committed with malice.

He also knew the punishments for first-, second- and third-degree murder, as well as both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Jacobs also revealed some knowledge of the rules of criminal procedure and said he does his own legal research.

Ness said he will issue his ruling soon.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.