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Judge asked to review suspect’s competency claim in Varun Chheda murder case

New York, Nov 23 (IANS) The judge overseeing the case of a student, suspected of murdering his Indian-American roommate at Purdue University, has been asked by the prosecutors to re-evaluate whether the suspect is fit to stand trial.

Ji Min Sha, a 22 year-old cybersecurity major from South Korea, stabbed Varun Manish Chheda, a Data Science student, inside their first-floor McCutcheon Hall room on October 5.

Prosecutors filed their motion last week requesting the Tippecanoe circuit court to vacate its November 14 order that appointed medical professionals to evaluate Sha, The Journal & Courier reported.

The move came after Sha’s attorney Kyle Cray requested the court to appoint psychiatrists, psychologists or physicians to evaluate whether Sha is competent enough to stand trial, and his sanity at the time of the alleged murder.

Acting upon the request, the judge assigned two medical professionals to determine Sha’s state of sanity at the time of the alleged murder.

The competency hearing is scheduled for December 2.

Prosecutors argued in their motion that since Sha’s defence failed to provide evidence of incompetency, there was “no ‘reasonable grounds’ (to) have been established to justify appointing doctor’s to evaluate for competency, the Journal & Courier report stated.

They also argued that both the doctors did not meet the court’s requirement of being “disinterested” parties.

According to legal experts, competency or fitness to stand trial refers to a defendant’s ability to understand and rationally participate in legal proceedings to defend himself.

Those found unfit to stand trial are excluded from facing criminal prosecution and the trial is postponed until the person is deemed competent, according to Indiana law.

Prosecutors alleged that Sha stabbed Chheda several times in the head and neck with a folding knife that officers found on the floor near the chair where the 20 year-old’s body was discovered.

Sha faces one count of murder for stabbing, and is currently being held at the Tippecanoe County Jail.

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