Sunday, September 26, 2010

Garrido to undergo competency evaluation

The attorney for Phillip Garrido, the man who gained worldwide infamy last year in the alleged abduction of Jaycee Dugard, has raised a doubt as to whether Garrido is competent to stand trial.

"This is a fundamental fairness issue," his attorney, Susan Gellman, a deputy public defender in El Dorado County, told a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. "What we're talking about here is whether or not a citizen is able to make a decision about his case. When someone wants to go to trial for crazy reasons, or not go to trial for crazy reasons, that person is not competent." She noted persistent trouble communicating with Garrido during her more than 20 meetings with him at the jail.

As I explained in my analysis of the case in the Guardian of UK last August, psychiatric issues -- including competency and perhaps insanity -- are sure to be prominent in this case due to Garrido's history of religious delusions. Through the wonders of the Internet, I wrote at the time, we can "travel back in time and enter his mind, via rambling blog posts about voices in his head, mind control, and religious delusions of himself as the savior." (Amazingly, his contemporaneous "Voices Revealed" blog is still online, for those of you who want to take a gander.)

At Friday's court hearing in El Dorado County, Judge Douglas Phimister commented that he had spotted strange behavior during his limited observations of the defendant in court. At times, he noted, "Garrido aggressively scribbled notes in a pad even though little was going on in court."

Demian Bulwa's San Francisco Chronicle account is HERE. My August 2009 analysis in the Guardian of UK, "Jaycee Dugard, transfixed by a monster," is HERE. My Sept. 3, 2009 followup post on the case, "Sex-Registry Flaws Stand Out," has more background and links.

Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli, AP

5 comments:

  1. Now let me get this straight...He can develop a blog and post it and it is still online. He can produce documents that (theoretically) can be understood by others and he is developing an alternative explanation for schizophrenia which though implausible is able to be read by others. He can (theoretically) consult with a private investigator and document this in his blog. Yet there is a question of whether his current mental state (and his mental state during the blog? {at least as late as August, 2009}) is such that he is unable to understand and unable to assist. Surely one could try to question his mental state at the time of the alleged crime(s) but there is scant documentation of his being UNABLE to understand/assist (of course due to a mental illness) at this time.

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  2. Anonymous,

    Your comment is a great example of a common misperception. A person can be floridly psychotic and delusional but still able to function on some level, but that does not make him necessarily competent to stand trial. Under the law, competence requires not only a basic factual understanding of the proceedings, but also a RATIONAL understanding and an ability to RATIONALLY assist one's attorney in one's defense. For an excellent example of how religious delusions impact competency, I recommend you read the opinion of Judge Judith Atherton of Utah in the Brian David Mitchell case. I've made it available here: http://bit.ly/bn9IU0.

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  3. Thank you for your respectful retort. I read Judge Kimball's competency ruling when you first posted it in July so I'm not sure why you refer to the earlier 2005 ruling that led to competency restoration. On the other hand, in the July posting, (referencing a ruling 4 months earlier and one in which you use the term "describing Mitchell as a cunning malingerer") the 149 pages are replete with clear examples of how Judge Kimball's opinion of competency was based (in large part) on the documented observations of paraprofessional staff members at the hospital and friends and neighbors of the defendant, (potentially subject to the same common mis-perceptions that you attribute to me.) I might be mis-interpreting the July posting but it seemed that judge Kimball's ruling and the documentation of staff members at the hospital would indicate that Mr. Mitchell was actively interfering with, if not circumventing his own and others' competency restoration activities. It seemed like his religious verbal productions were conveniently timed and selectively applied to delay his proceedings. Therefore in general, it would seem that when a defendant makes verbal productions of a religious nature, they are accepted without skepticism as delusional and the defendant is presumed to be incompetent to stand trial; unless the court gives considerable time to provide for the documented observations of non-partisan paraprofessionals and other collateral information sources.

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  4. Hello again, Anonymous:

    I recommended Judge Atherton's decision because it articulates the complexities when religious beliefs are at issue in a competency matter. You are absolutely correct about Judge Kimball's ruling, though. Which is why, as you say, it is so important in complex cases like these to obtain collateral information.

    One important factor to consider in Garrido's case is that the websites, with their presumably delusional content, pre-dated his arrest. Indeed, his religious sermonizing at UC Berkeley contributed to his capture (police became suspicious about the girls in his company). Defendants can concoct elaborate ruses regarding delusions -- the best example I know of was Vincent Gigante, a Mafia don who pretended to be incompetent and insane for years -- but such sophisticated deception is rare, outside of fiction and movies.

    Thanks again for your comments.

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  5. I agree with you 100% and I appreciate the dialogue here. Thank you for the intelligent and respectful discourse.

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