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Judge finds killer competent to die

FRANKFORT — A convicted child killer who insists on being executed for his crimes is mentally competent and can dismiss his attorneys to speed up his scheduled lethal injection, a judge ruled Friday.

Marco Allen Chapman's execution is set for Nov. 21 for the murders of two children in the Northern Kentucky town of Warsaw in 2004.

"I am completely competent and have the ability to make my own decisions," Chapman, 36, told Senior Judge Roger Crittenden on the phone during a hearing at the Franklin County Courthouse.

Dr. Michael Harris, a Louisville psychiatrist, testified that he had reached the same conclusion about Chapman after examining him at the Kentucky State Penitentiary this month.

Harris said he found no evidence to suggest a mental disorder or defect that would render Chapman unable to rationally make decisions concerning his execution.

Even though Chapman dismissed his lawyers in 2004 before pleading guilty to murder and asking for a death sentence, public defenders have continued to file motions on his behalf, questioning his competency. They have argued that seeking to be executed is like trying to commit "suicide by court."

Crittenden's ruling clears the way for the execution.

Chapman admitted to killing the two children and attacking their sister and sexually assaulting their mother, though he has maintained that he has no memory of the crimes.

Carolyn Marksberry, the mother of the victims and a survivor of the assault, attended the hearing but declined to speak with reporters. It is a policy of The Associated Press not to name victims of sexual assault in most cases; however, Marksberry has discussed her ordeal in national television broadcasts.

Chapman said delaying his execution would "drag out the misery" for himself and the family of his victims.

If the execution is carried out, Chapman would become the first Kentucky inmate put to death since 1999.

Public defender Dennis Burke said Chapman still can decide to back out.

"Certainly, he has the right to change his mind," Burke said.