New law could impact the outcome of the Lucia Bremer murder trial

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 6:21 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Dylan Williams, the teen charged with killing 13-year-old Lucia Bremer, is scheduled to go on trial early next year.

During William’s status hearing on Wednesday, a Henrico Circuit Court judge scheduled a three-day trial starting on Jan. 30, 2023.

A new law involving psychological evaluations could have big implications on the trajectory of the murder trial.

In Virginia, the new law allows a defendant’s mental condition at the time of a crime to play a role in court.

Under this new law, the prosecution and defense agreed to delay the murder trial of Lucia Bremer back in June, so that Dylan Williams could undergo a psychological evaluation.

“If a person is so disabled by reason of mental illness or intellectual disability that they are not capable of forming the specific criminal intent that differentiates between manslaughter and first-degree murder, then they shouldn’t be convicted of something they’re not guilty of,” NBC12 Legal Analyst Steve Benjamin said. “That’s fundamental.”

Before the law was passed, Benjamin says a mental health evaluation was strictly binary. Unless you were diagnosed as being clinically insane, Virginia law did not permit you to put on evidence that you suffered from a mental disability.

“The law in Virginia assumed that everybody was the same. It assumed that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities with mental illness, or who were on the autism spectrum, that they all thought in processed things like anybody else, an assumption that scientifically, of course, is completely unsound,” Benjamin said.

A common concern is that people will go into these evaluations trying to act mentally ill in hopes of being found not guilty.

“These tests are designed to expose those who are faking it, because of course, people are going to try to fake it. It’s in their best interest to try to fake it,” Benjamin said. “But the tests aren’t that easily, if at all, susceptible to fabrication. They test for that.”

Technically, this new law could be used to argue, for example, that Williams didn’t have the criminal intent to meet the definition for second-degree murder, due to an underdeveloped brain or any other mental health conditions.

Williams faces a total of six charges in connection to Bremer’s death, including second-degree murder.

This new law could play a major role in convicting him or finding him not guilty of those charges when he stands trial in January.