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JUNE 2 UPDATE: Wrestling author Irv Muchnick, who has been at the forefront of the Jimmy Snuka-Nancy Argentino cold case for decades, noted in a recap of Wednesday’s hearing that the court suddenly changed the date of the fourth mental competency hearing. This disallowed Nancy’s family from attending on short notice.
Mucknick reported: “’Unfortunately, justice suffers when it’s delayed,’” Judge Banach said from the bench at a hearing whose date had been swerved, without informing the Argentino family, so that Nancy’s sisters were unable to attend.”
The originally reported court date for the fourth mental competency hearing was June 21, but the hearing was bumped up to June 1, where Judge Banach made her decision on whether Snuka was competent to stand trial.
Muchnick noted Argentino’s family was already under a gag order not to talk about the case, which Judge Banach maintained going forward in her ruling on Wednesday.
JUNE 1 UPDATE: Jimmy Snuka returned to Pennsylvania court on Wednesday for his fourth mental competency hearing in the case of the death of his 1983 girlfriend, Nancy Argentino.
The result was Judge Kelly Banach ruling that Snuka is not mentally competent to stand trial, reports the Morning Call. Therefore, there will not be a trial at present.
Judge Banach did not end the proceedings, though. The case will be put off for six months until the next hearing on December 2 to review whether Snuka’s condition has improved, or if the prosectors drop the charges.
In her ruling, Judge Banach suggested that there is enough evidence to go trial. “Unfortunately, justice suffers when it’s delayed,” she said. However, she sided with the defense’s witness, forensic psychologist Dr. Frank Dattilio, who said Snuka is a shell of a man, has dementia, and does not understand the charges he is facing.
The prosecution argued that Snuka is faking his mental condition to avoid trial. Judge Banach’s answer was: “I don’t believe he’s faking it. I don’t think he’s smart enough to fake it.”
Judge Banach also denied a motion from district attorney Charles Gallagher asking for Snuka to be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility for 60 days.
The judge added that upon her review of the case and after talking to Snuka, she believes that he is “vacant” and “leadable,” making it difficult for attorneys to provide sound counsel and making Snuka unable to assist in his own defense.
There is the issue of Snuka continuing to take wrestling bookings, prompting the question of why he’s still appearing in front of wrestling crowds if he’s mentally incompetent to understand simple things like how to operate a car door, according to his wife Carole.
“He’s a man. I’m not going to emasculate him by telling him he can’t do it,” Carole said. “Promoters will book him because his name draws, but that doesn’t mean he’s there.”
Going forward, Snuka is free on bail, and his family plans to move him down to Florida to live with his son after the Snukas lost their home because of financial problems. Judge Banach allowed them to move during the six-month stay period, and the prosecution did not object. (Full Report at MCall.com)
MAY 21 UPDATE: The next hearing in Jimmy Snuka’s mental competency hearing is scheduled for June 21, reports the Morning Call. (It turned out to be June 1.)
The next court date will follow three days of hearings in mid-May trying to determine if Snuka is able to stand trial in the death of his 1983 girlfriend Nancy Argentino.
Snuka took the stand at the third hearing on Friday (May 20). However, no determination was made by Judge Kelly Banach on whether the case should continue to trial.
Judge Banach will take one month to review all of the information presented by both sides and perhaps have an answer on June 21.
MAY 20 UPDATE
Jimmy Snuka took the stand Friday in Pennsylvania court to help determine if he’s able to stand trial in the death of his 1983 girlfriend Nancy Argentino.
There was no resolution, though, after the third hearing, reports the Morning Call covering the trial. There will be at least a fourth hearing before Judge Kelly Banach makes a determination on Snuka’s mental state.
Judge Banach asked Snuka basic questions about his identity, ability to read and write, obtaining a driver’s license, where he lives, and other tests to see if she could gather more information before making a ruling.
Earlier in the week, Snuka’s defense team presented a doctor who said Snuka was unfit for trial because he is a “shell of a man.” Then, the prosecution presented a doctor who said Snuka is fit for trial, and his brain shrinkage is within the normal range for a man in his 70s.
On Friday, Judge Banach asked Snuka to take the stand despite his attorney, Robert Kirwin, disagreeing. Kirwin wanted a chance to speak privately with Snuka before he was questioned.
– Related to coverage of Snuka’s trial, wrestling author Irv Muchnick, who has been covering the central issue for three decades, talked to the show “Ottawa Today” about the back-story of the case.
MAY 18 UPDATE
Jimmy Snuka is competent enough to stand trial in the death of his 1983 girlfriend Nancy Argentino, according to a forensic psychiatrist called by the prosecution at Wednesday’s competency hearing in Lehigh County (Pa.).
Dr. John O’Brien testified that Snuka’s brain atrophy is within the normal range of someone in their 70s. He said he reviewed Snuka’s 2015 grand jury testimony and determined that Snuka was able to “hear, comprehend, and respond appropriately to questions,” reports the Morning Call.
Judge Kelly Banach said she will need to do further research on the evidence presented by both sides before making a determination.
Update: A third mental competency hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Another big aspect of Wednesday’s hearing reported by the Morning Call is testimony from Whitehall detective Gerald Procanyn, now a county detective. Procanyn noted that he and two other detectives interviewed Snuka following Argentino’s death in 1983.
Procanyn said the interview was recorded and the audiotape was placed in the Whitehall police station evidence room. However, the audio tape cannot be found. Whether or not it was lost when the police station moved locations in 1997 is unknown. “It is not there,” Procanyn said, noting he searched for the audio tape as recently as two days ago.
MAY 13 UPDATE
After a two-month delay, Jimmy Snuka returned to Pennsylvania court on Friday to determine if he can stand trial in the death of his 1983 girlfriend, Nancy Argentino.
The determination from a clinical psychologist is that Snuka, 72, is not competent to stand trial, reports the Morning Call covering Friday’s hearing in Allentown, Pa.
Dr. Frank M. Dattilio said that after studying Snuka “several times” over the past year, he has determined that Snuka is a “shell of a man” whose brain is “damaged beyond repair from years of wrestling stunts.”
Snuka is also suffering from dementia that is “worsening by the month,” and he has “serious memory loss,” Dr. Dattilio added. “He is unable to understand the legal process.” Dr. Dattilio also claimed the pressure of a trial “would case a severe erosion of his emotional state.”
Also cited at Snuka’s competency hearing is that his “severe mental impairment” was brought on by a history of “abusing alcohol and cocaine,” along with the blows to his head from wrestling, reports the AP via ABC News.
Dr. Dattilio was the first witness called at Friday’s competency hearing. Other witnesses presented by the prosecutors will attempt to show that Snuka is able to stand trial. A final decision was unlikely on Friday, The Call reports.