PITTSFIELD -- The Lee man accused of shooting his stepson and killing his dog last December is scheduled to go to trial in March 2014. Meanwhile, his attorney says he lacks criminal responsibility for the alleged crimes.

On the afternoon of Dec. 13, police say Phap Nguyen, 52, shot and wounded his stepson, 31-year-old Jeremy Lee Deane, with a 9mm pistol as the younger man rummaged in the refrigerator for a snack in the kitchen of the family home on Beartown Mountain Road.

Deane was shot in the abdomen and in both legs. He was released from the hospital five days later.

Nguyen has pleaded not guilty to single counts of armed assault to murder and animal cruelty and remains free on $5,000 cash bail.

After his arrest Nguyen spent the next six weeks under observation at a psychiatric facility. Doctors there determined that he was competent to stand trial.

If it's determined that Nguyen does lack criminal responsibility, he could be sent to a secure psychiatric facility rather than to prison. But before that can happen, the Berkshire District Attorney's Office can have Nguyen examined by its own expert.

A defendant can be found competent to stand trial and still be determined to lack criminal responsibility under Massachusetts state law, since the determination is based on the defendant's mental state at the time the alleged crime was committed, according to the Suffolk University Law School website.

If a psychologist or psychiatrist hired by the DA's office differs in opinion on whether Nguyen is criminally responsible, the case could still go to trial, with a jury making the final decision on the matter. In that case, the defense must raise the issue and the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Nguyen committed the crimes he's charged with and was sane at the time.

On Wednesday in Berkshire Superior Court, Nguyen appeared with his attorney Nathaniel K. Green before Judge John A. Agostini. A final pretrial hearing was set for Feb. 19, with the case likely being placed on the March trial list.

The case is being prosecuted by First Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello.

The investigation was handled by state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney's Office, members of the Lee Police Department and troopers assigned to the Ballistics and Crime Scene Services Section of the Massachusetts State Police.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
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