Trial to proceed despite man's bizarre actions

Doctors say Robert Lee, who faces a life in prison if guilty, wants to be deemed incompetent.

By Colleen Jenkins, Times Staff Writer
Published February 12, 2008

TAMPA - To prove he's incompetent to stand trial on multiple felony charges, Robert Sinclaire Lee hid a razor in his mouth and used it to cut his wrist in court.

He smeared feces on his face.

And Monday, he entered a courtroom with feces hidden in his jail jacket pocket.

Prosecutors say the inmate's antics are his attempt to fake a mental illness. They say doctors and jail phone calls back their theory.

Lee's latest smelly stunt caught officials' attention but didn't achieve its purpose.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Foster seated a jury Monday to decide whether Lee, 27, is guilty of attempted murder, attempted armed robbery and aggravated assault - charges that could send him to prison for life if he is convicted.

But first, the judge asked latex-glove wearing bailiffs to take care of Lee's personal hygiene.

"I can smell him up here," Foster said from the bench.

Lee is accused of holding employees hostage inside the Panda Express at 8416 N 56th St. in Temple Terrace on Oct. 25, 2006.

Prosecutors say he brandished a gun and demanded money as an accomplice held another employee at gunpoint outside.

A deliveryman for the restaurant thwarted the plan.

Returning from a dropoff, he grabbed his own gun and shot at the accomplice outside, who ran away and was never identified.

Then he went inside and exchanged gunfire with Lee.

The deliveryman was unharmed but Lee was hit twice, taking one bullet to his testicle.

Assistant State Attorney Dereck Capaz said professionals at the state mental hospital examined Lee after the feces-on-the-face incident in a courthouse holding cell. They determined he was malingering, Capaz said.

Prosecutors also have jail phone call recordings on which Lee laughs about acting "crazy."

Bailiffs searched Lee's clothing Monday morning after noticing he was fidgeting with something in his pocket.

The defendant didn't disrupt jury selection Monday afternoon.

But just in case he acts up during the trial, court officials set up a camera that would allow Lee to watch the proceedings from a private holding cell.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or 813 226-3337.