RACINE — A Racine County defense lawyer is facing the prospect of a contempt hearing, for himself, after provoking the ire of a judge on Friday who simply wanted to reschedule a hearing in a homicide case.
A competency hearing had been set for Friday afternoon for Kiori J. Billups. Billups, 21, is one of two Racine men charged in the July 23 fatal shooting of Racine musician and singer Jeremiah “Jay” Brook.
The hearing was one of the last docketed at 3 p.m. Friday for Racine County Circuit Judge Charles Constantine.
About 11 minutes after the hearing was slated to start, Constantine already had directed one of his courtroom staffers to send messages to Assistant State Public Defender Ahmed Jenkins — who was in another courtroom on another floor of the Law Enforcement Center. Jenkins was representing another client before a different judge in that basement-level courtroom, but the hearing in that case hadn’t yet started.
Constantine said he wanted Jenkins upstairs in his courtroom to reschedule Billups’ hearing, but staff sent electronic messages back, reportedly stating that Jenkins wasn’t coming.
That’s when Constantine sent his two courtroom deputies downstairs to fetch Jenkins. When they returned to the courtroom a handful of minutes later, one bore an almost sheepish expression. But they didn’t have Jenkins.
“I’m gonna have a contempt hearing. You refused to come up,” Constantine told Jenkins when he walked in 17 minutes late, adding Jenkins defied him multiple times.
“I didn’t refuse,” Jenkins told Constantine, explaining the other judge told him his case would be called next. “I said I was gonna be up in, like, a minute.”
Plus, he noted he previously had filed a notice requesting Billups’ hearing be continued because a doctor’s report wasn’t finished yet.
“I’ve not gotten any correspondence,” Constantine said, his face still red. “I sent the deputies down and they said you refused to come up. I’m gonna set it for a hearing, but I’m not letting it drop.”
Jenkins left the courtroom Friday without comment.
A date for the contempt hearing might be set next week. Constantine said Jenkins may have a lawyer represent him.
According to state bar records, Jenkins graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2005. He is listed as a member of the Bar in good standing, State Bar of Wisconsin records show.
Brook’s father simply shook his head quietly in the courtroom, watching the highly unusual scene play out.
At about 1:22 p.m. July 23, police responded to what at first appeared to be a car crash when Brook’s sport utility vehicle hit street signs and other vehicles along Washington Avenue before rear-ending a parked car. Inside the SUV officers found Brook, 22, suffering from a gunshot wound.
Billups is charged with being a party to the crimes of first-degree reckless homicide by use of a dangerous weapon and armed robbery, and two misdemeanor bail jumping counts.
A psychologist who evaluated Billups during the summer issued an opinion that Billups is competent to proceed with the case. In August, Jenkins asked for a second mental health expert to evaluate Billups, saying he didn’t think Billups was competent enough at the time to help in preparing his defense.
One facet of competency is that defendants must be able to assist their attorney in preparing their defense.
If Billups were to be declared incompetent, he would have one year in which to become competent before his criminal case could proceed.
Constantine set a status conference for Nov. 13 for Billups and co-defendant Latriell D. Thurman, 20, also of Racine. He demanded that Billups’ new doctor submit a letter by noon Wednesday stating when he can issue his decision on Billups’ competency.
“I want the competency issue resolved with Mr. Billups before the 13th (of November),” Constantine said.