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New judge gets death-row case

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A South Bend judge has been appointed to preside over a hearing for a man on death row who was convicted of killing a Franklin College student.

The Indiana Supreme Court appointed Judge Jane Woodward Miller of St. Joseph County to hear arguments on whether Michael Dean Overstreet is mentally competent to be executed. Overstreet was convicted of abducting, raping and murdering Kelly Eckart in Johnson County in 1997.

The hearings will take place in Woodward Miller’s court in South Bend, according to the Indiana Supreme Court order.

The case was originally supposed to be heard in Franklin by Johnson County Superior 2 Judge Cynthia Emkes, who sentenced Overstreet to death after his trial in 2000. Emkes requested to be removed from the case due to recent health problems.

The hearings were ordered by the Supreme Court last year after a psychiatrist’s report stated that Overstreet is not competent because he does not comprehend the concept of death.

Federal law prevents states from executing people who are not mentally capable of understanding the punishment.

Overstreet’s attorney said in the past that the hearings are one of the last appeals that can be made in an effort to stop the execution.

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