Suspects in former Kernel editor’s murder ruled competent; trial set for 2019


Justin Smith looks on along with Efrian Diaz Jr. and Roman Gonzalez Jr. during a bond hearing for the 3 suspects involved in the murder of former Kernel photo editor Jonathan Krueger at the Fayette County Circuit Court in Lexington, Ky. on Friday, February 5, 2016. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff.

Kernel News Staff

Two men charged with the murder of UK student Jonathan Krueger have been ruled mentally competent, according to the Herald-Leader

As part of the ongoing process to decide whether the two suspects can face the death penalty, the judge ordered an evaluation of the two men.

Efrain Diaz, 23, and Justin Smith, 21, were both younger than 21 when the murder occurred, so their attorneys have previously argued that their brains were not yet fully developed.

Currently, the death penalty is not allowed for those younger than 18 at the time of the crime, meaning that a third suspect, Roman Gonzalez, who was 17 when the crime occurred, is facing a maximum of life in prison. 

Previously, Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional in a situation in which a man barely over 18 allegedly killed someone, according to the Herald-Leader. The prosecution in Krueger’s case has appealed this decision. 

Scorsone is the same judge who ruled Diaz and Smith competent after they underwent medical, psychological and psychiatric evaluations, the Herald-Leader reported.

The four-week trial has reportedly been set to begin March 11, 2019.