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April 20, 2014

Bench murder trial to be returned to August docket

DUNCAN — Although the first-degree murder trial for Miles Bench has been set to begin Monday, District Attorney Jason Hicks said the trial is unlikely to begin before August.

When Bench’s competency hearing ended Thursday, District Judge Joe Enos set the trial for 9 a.m. Monday to begin the jury selection process. Hicks said the quick turn around was a surprise to the prosecution and the defense.

“When he said that, we were all like ‘Huh?’” Hicks said. “There’s no way we can be ready that quickly.”

Bench, 23, of Velma, faces the first-degree murder charge for the bludgeoning death of 16-year-old Braylee Henry. Henry was beaten to death in the Velma convenience store Teepee Totem, where Bench was working at the time.

 Her body was found with the aid of a police dog in a field owned by Bench’s grandparents. Bench was arrested in Weatherford, 140 miles away, where he  had driven Henry’s car, authorities said.

 Police were able to track the teenager’s vehicle because it was equipped with an OnStar system.

  Bench had blood on his shirt, police said.

  The suspect had been declared competent to stand trial twice, but a third competency hearing began Monday afternoon and concluded Thursday.

During the competency hearing, two psychologists talked about a two-pronged competency evaluation process. The two prongs include the defendant having an understanding of the charges against him and the punishment he faces, and whether he is able to rationally aid his attorneys to build his defense.

It took less than an hour for the six-person jury to find Bench competent to stand trial. Bench faces the maximum punishment for first-degree murder -- death by lethal injection.

The competency hearing pushed Bench’s trial date of August, after having originally been slated for the April docket. But Enos’ decision to place the trial back on the April docket, beginning four days after the competency hearing.

Hicks said the prosecution and the defense talked with Enos, expressing concerns about the quick turn around to build their cases. Hicks said the trial will be moved back to the August docket as previously expected.

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