A man charged with killing the operator of a speed-camera van along a Phoenix freeway has been found competent to stand trial and will not face the death penalty, a judge said Feb. 24.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp said in court that Thomas Patrick Destories, 69, was found competent to stand trial by two psychologists and set his trial for July 12. That means the psychologists believe Destories understands the court proceedings and can assist in his own defense.
Destories’ attorney, Vanessa Smith, wrote in court documents that her client has a history of mental illness dating back to 1970, that their conversations have been disjointed and that he has showed paranoia. She declined to comment Wednesday.
Destories, a Jeep tour operator, is charged with first-degree murder, drive-by shooting and firing a gun at a structure in the death of Doug Georgianni, 51. Georgianni was doing paperwork on the night of April 19 inside a speed-camera van in north Phoenix when police said Destories pulled up behind the van and then slowly alongside it before firing.
Destories smiled and spoke with Smith before the hearing but otherwise said nothing. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty because they weren’t able to find aggravating factors to do so, prosecutor Vince Imbordino said. Such factors would include a crime being committed in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.
Destories faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the first-degree murder charge, but the jury could find him guilty of a lesser second-degree murder charge, Imbordino said.
Authorities haven’t said what they believe the motive for Georgianni’s killing was but said Destories and Georgianni had never met. Many simply assume the killing was the most extreme backlash against the speed-enforcement program, which began in September 2008.
Arizonans have used sticky notes, Silly String and even a pickax to sabotage the cameras since they began snapping the photos of speeders. A citizens group is seeking to get a measure on the November ballot to ban the cameras.
Mobile units that are part of Arizona’s statewide speed-enforcement program are no longer staffed with people, but are operated remotely.
Georgianni, a resident of the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, had just a few days left on the job before he was to leave to sell insurance. He had married his wife, Jean, in 2006, and his family said the couple was very much in love and were about to celebrate their anniversary when Georgianni was killed.
Georgianni called his wife after he was shot, and she called 911. It was the last time the two spoke.
Georgianni’s family attends every court hearing in the case and said they want Destories sentenced to at least 30 years in prison because that’s how long they estimate Georgianni would have lived had he not been killed.
Destories had no criminal history before the shooting, but his then-wife filed an order for protection against him in 1998, saying he assaulted her and her two daughters on one occasion. She later had the order quashed when she and Destories started getting along better during divorce proceedings.
The wife said in another court document that she thought Destories was an alcoholic and was worried about him driving while drunk with the girls in the car.
Also, one of his daughters said in court records that she was sometimes embarrassed by her father, recalling a time when he marched back and forth with a bullhorn in front of a grocery store, berating the store’s operators for selling “smut magazines” like Cosmopolitan, according to a court document.