Attorney: Doctor says man accused of killing wife, 2 adult children isn’t competent for trial

The man accused of fatally shooting his wife and their adult daughter and son at their Nassau County home in December should be found not competent to stand trial.

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – The man accused of fatally shooting his wife and their adult daughter and son at their Nassau County home in December should be found not competent to stand trial, according to a doctor who evaluated William Broyles, his attorney told a Nassau County judge on Thursday.

Broyles’ attorney, Richard Kurtiz, said he plans to have a psychologist evaluate Broyles also before he officially files motions with the court to have Broyles deemed incompetent for prosecution.

RELATED: ‘Doesn’t make sense’: Man fatally shoots wife, daughter, son at Nassau County home, sheriff says

Judge James Daniel acknowledged the dilemma Kuritz is in as a deadline approaches for him to waive speedy trial for his client in the murder case, something Broyles can’t do if he’s deemed incompetent.

The prosecutor said he anticipates the state will want its own independent doctors to evaluate Broyles, but he can’t determine that for sure until he sees the defense’s motions.

The state attorney’s office has told Broyles it will seek the death penalty if he’s convicted.

RELATED: Who is William Broyles, Nassau man accused of killing wife, daughter & son?

Broyles appeared in court Thursday via Zoom from the jail but did not speak. He will appear in court again on April 7 to update the status of the evaluations and what motions his attorney will be filing.

Law professor Benjamin Priester, an attorney not affiliated with this case, told News4JAX that the burden of proof is on the defense, not the state, during a pre-trial hearing to determine a defendant’s competency.

“Competency to stand trial asks, ‘Are you so psychiatrically impaired at the time of the trial that it would be fundamentally unfair to put you through a proceeding that you can’t meaningfully participate in?’” Priester said. “So the legal standard for competency to stand trial asks whether the defendant can understand the proceedings against them and whether they can assist their attorney in preparing their defense.”

Priestly added that it’s a heavy burden of proof. He said most defendants who use the plea of incompetence, or the more-infrequent “insanity plea,” fail to convince the court.

“The prosecution’s argument is going to be this person doesn’t appear to have any long-standing, well-known history of mental disturbance, which is going to lead the prosecution say, ‘We’re skeptical of this claim of insanity,’ or ‘We’re skeptical of his claim of incompetent to stand trial,’ because it is, relatively speaking, unusual for people to have a sudden break with reality,” Priester said. “It can happen, but it’s unusual.”

Broyles was indicted in January on three counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of fatally shooting his 57-year-old wife, 27-year-old daughter and 28-year-old son in December 2021 in their home.

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said that before the shooting there was no history of domestic problems at that address.

“This case is just tragic. It just, it’s crazy. It just doesn’t make sense,” Leeper said in a news conference following the shooting.

As revealed in December on the staff page of Hodges Boulevard Presbyterian Church, Broyles was listed as the church’s director of music ministries. His name has since been removed from the page. The staff page stated that Broyles had been its church musician for 23 years, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering and has worked in the aerospace and medical device industries.

About the Authors:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.