Higgs to Return to Court on Thursday

RENO, Nevada (AP) -- Chaz Higgs will return to a courtroom where he is standing trial on charges of killing his wife, former Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine, and resume the witness stand Thursday, two days after his second suicide attempt.

Washoe District Judge Steven Kosach, after hearing from Higgs' defense lawyers in a brief hearing Wednesday, ruled that mental competency was not an issue despite Higgs' attempted suicide early Tuesday.

Higgs, 43, is accused of killing his Augustine, with a lethal injection of a paralyzing drug last summer.

He testified in his own defense on Monday, and slit his wrists that night, before facing an expected tough cross examination by prosecutors.

Defense lawyers David Houston and Alan Baum assured the judge Wednesday that Higgs understood the proceedings and was able to assist in his defense - the two elements that determine whether a defendant is mentally competent for trial.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Tom Barb agreed.

"Competency is the issue. Not whether he's crazy," Barb told reporters outside the courthouse.

Houston, also speaking to reporters afterward, said Higgs had wanted to testify and had been planning suicide for about a year.

"His opinion was he has cleared his name and it's time to go," Houston said, referring to a note Higgs had left Tuesday.

Higgs' trial was interrupted abruptly on Tuesday when lawyers informed the judge of the developments.

After being treated at a Reno hospital, Higgs was taken to the Washoe County Jail and placed on a suicide watch.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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