John Jonchuck found competent to stand trial

- After several examinations, John Jonchuck, the man accused of throwing his daughter off of an approach to the Sunshine Skyway in January of 2015, has been found competent to stand trial.

The announcement was made by a judge in a Pinellas County court on Wednesday.

The man who, before the killing told a lawyer he wanted to prove he was the pope, and who was driving around with his daughter, Phoebe while wearing his pajamas, is apparently finally able to understand the basics: Charges, penalties and the ability to communicate with his lawyers.

A state mental health hospital completed the examination.

"One of the major things they look at is whether this person can actually aid or assist his own attorney in his defense," said defense attorney Anthony Rickman, who is not representing Jonchuck.

Jonchuck faces the death penalty, and must deal with the bizarre situation of his own family's acknowledgement that he is the one who threw his daughter into Tampa Bay in front of a policeman.

"The only defense I really see the defendant having is, at the time, him doing this action, was he legally insane?" said Rickman.

But deputies who encountered him just hours before Phoebe's death didn't have him committed to a mental hospital under Florida's Baker Act.

Further, hours after her death, he apparently understood right from wrong.

"At the police station, when they ask him, what happened and he says, how is Phoebe? Then he puts his head in his hands, shaking, showing the consciousness of guilt," said Rickman, who has reviewed news reports of the killing.

Rickman still expects a trial to be a year away, given the legal hurdles.

"I know when the public sees it the reaction is what this guy did is horrible, and the prosecution is prosecuting him, which they are, and they are seeking death, which they are, you gotta do it right."

A follow-up hearing is scheduled for March 27.

The defense attorneys will be allowed to conduct their own examination of Jonchuck.

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