When he appeared in Bridgeport Superior Court last year on a charge of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Kenneth L. Curtis sat slumped in his wheelchair, chin resting on his chest, hands clasping a jacket in his lap. Except for an occasional glance at his attorney, Curtis did not appear to be paying attention to the proceedings.

His attorney, Salvatore C. DePiano, was arguing that Curtis could not be tried for the 1987 murder of Donna Kalson because a court had found him incompetent to stand trial a decade earlier, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.