Inmate who escaped from West Tennessee prison undergoes mental evaluation

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LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Tenn. — More than a month after escaping from the state penitentiary and wreaking havoc across West Tennessee, Curtis Watson had his preliminary court hearing Wednesday.

Watson is facing four charges, including first-degree murder.

Originally scheduled as a preliminary hearing, Wednesday’s session turned into a status hearing for Watson.

His assigned public defenders appeared for the first time, but Watson did not, as the court waits for him to be mentally evaluated. While Watson’s defense team didn’t speak, the prosecution is confident that Watson will be judged competent.

“We would expect that the results of that would be that he is competent to stand trial and that he was sane at the time of the offense,” Lauderdale County District Attorney Mark Davidson said.

Escaped inmate Curtis Watson is seen during his arrest Sunday in this photo released by TBI.

Watson is being held in Riverbend maximum security institution in Nashville, making for a nearly three hour commute to Lauderdale County. It’s added some complications to the case, but it’s understandable, given Watson’s record.

“Because of the escape and the risk that he posed obviously to the public, and the fact that he did escape, it seems like they made a choice to place him in a maximum security prison, and that’s at Riverbend,” Davidson said.

As of now, the state plans on evaluating Watson’s mental state sometime in early-to-mid October, with his next status hearing scheduled for Nov. 21. They also revealed they believe Watson’s case does merit the death penalty, and it’s still being considered in the case.

“It is a death-eligible case,” Davidson said. “There are a number of factors that could apply that make it death-eligible, so we’re satisfied that it could be a potential death penalty case.”

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