So, about competency for trial

After I shared an article on Charley’s Facebook page about how after years of psychiatric treatment and a second opinion, Catherine Hoggle is STILL mentally incompetent to stand trial in the murders of her children Sarah and Jacob, someone was asking questions about what it meant to be competent or incompetent to stand trial, so I thought I’d talk about that cause probably more than one person doesn’t know.

Basically, in order to face a criminal trial in the U.S. you have to be mentally capable of defending yourself. The barrier to this is not very high; you can have low intelligence and be severely mentally ill and still be competent to stand trial.

You have to know the basics of what a trial is, and the roles of everyone involved: the state says you broke X Law, the prosecutor is against you, the defense attorney is for you, the judge makes sure the trial is fair and legal, the witnesses tell what they know and the jury decides if you are in fact guilty of breaking X Law. A child could be made to understand these things.

You also have to be capable of working with your defense, and this part is what causes problems for people like Catherine Hoggle, who is incompetent to stand trial because of her mental illness.

Now, Catherine has schizophrenia and every psychiatrist who has tested her competency over the last few years, including the one the government recently hired for a second opinion on the matter, agrees she is not competent to stand trial but with treatment could become competent in the future. (She has recently been prescribed Clozapine, the last-resort Holy Grail of antipsychotic drugs which can work wonders for treatment-resistant schizophrenia.)

Speaking hypothetically here, if you are very intelligent and understand the mechanics of a trial and the roles of everyone involved, but you have a severe schizophrenic delusion that your defense attorney is actually an alien from the Planet Zog who only wants your brain for the Zog beings’ Museum of Humanoid Anatomy and will suck out your brain through your esophagus if you so much as part your lips in the attorney’s presence, obviously this is going to present severe problems in building your defense. If you genuinely believe your defense attorney is not actually on your side and only wants to steal your brain for alien naturalists to gawk at in a museum, you’re not going to be able to work with your attorney to come up with a defense in your upcoming murder trial. And the Constitution says the government can’t put you on trial if you are incapable of defending yourself.

So in order to make you competent, the government puts you in a secure psychiatric facility and has psychiatrists and therapists and other mental health clinicians treat you in hopes that you will eventually become well enough to cast aside the whole “Planet Zog wants my brain” delusion at least in part. The goal is just to get you to be able to talk to your defense and assist them in whatever strategy they’re going to use to defend you, and to know what’s going on with the trial and potential consequences.

So that’s my TED Talk on mental fitness for trial. Hope you found it illuminating.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Alexandria Suleski

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Alexandria Christine Suleski; her father is white and her mom is Korean. She disappeared from Radcliff, Kentucky on October 26, 1989, at the age of five.

What happened to her is known, and two people were convicted, but I don’t think it’s possible to recover her remains: supposedly the bones were crushed to crumbs.

I updated her case recently after reading Alexandria’s stepsister Nyssa’s self-published memoir, Dark Secret: The Complete Story: The True Account of What Happened to Little Alex Suleski. For a self-published book it’s pretty good, and it’s available on Kindle Unlimited. (Though you might want to skip the last hundred pages or so; the post-trial stuff dragged on and on and on.)

The book describes in vivid detail what life with Nyssa’s sociopathic mother was like, how her mother ultimately tortured and murdered Alex because she kept having potty accidents, and how Nyssa ultimately turned against her mother and testified against her in court.

Poor Alex was let down by every adult in her life. The best that can be said is that after her death, her siblings were all raised by good people, and her killers are both still in prison.

Incidentally, Alex was also a family abduction victim: her dad told her mom he was just taking her and her sister on a vacation, but never returned them, and within two months Alex was dead.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Kianna and Gunnar Berg

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is actually two cases, the missing siblings Kianna Joanna Berg and Gunnar David Berg.

The children, who are half white, half Japanese, were abducted by their mother, Naoko Numakami, from their Fairfax, Virginia home and taken to her native Japan. They were eight and nine years old at the time.

Naoko told Kianna and Gunnar’s father that she was just taking the kids to Japan for a vacation, but once in that country she refused to return them. He hasn’t seen them since.

Unfortunately for the kids’ father, it’s probably going to stay that way. I don’t know if there are ANY cases where the Japanese government actually agreed to return an internationally abducted child. I don’t think family courts, as such, really exist there.

Both kids are now over eighteen and could choose to go back to the US on their own if they like, but my guess is that like many family abduction victims, they’ve been alienated against their left-behind father.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Chengxu and Zhaoxu Wang

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is actually two cases, the twins Chengxu Wang (male) and Zhaoxu Wang (female). They were five when they disappeared from Champaign, Illinois on February 7, 2015.

Per the NCMEC, the twins were abducted by their non-custodial mother. My guess is she’s taken them back to her country of origin, which my guess, based on the children’s names, would be China. Though it could be Singapore or Malaysia or any country where a lot of people are Chinese.

Anyway, if the children were victims of international family abduction, it’s unlikely they can be returned unless the mother chooses it. I don’t think China has signed the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. I’m not sure any Asian country has.

Black History Month: Irwin Stewart

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Irwin Yafeth Stewart, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy who was abducted by his non-custodial mother, Elvia Bravo Ibarra, from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2002. Irwin is biracial; his mother is Hispanic and his father is black.

Elvia and Irwin may still be in the Houston area, or they may have gone to Mexico. Iwin would be 17 years old today.

Well, this is a bit odd

I found out that Maribel Oquendo-Carrero‘s dad, said to be possibly her abductor when she disappeared in 1982, is still around and his whereabouts are unknown and he gets arrested sometimes. Petty stuff. He was arrested at least three times this year. He’s 80 years old.

So where is Maribel? I have no idea. The Facebook page I found for her includes a scrap of some article about her disappearance, but it’s not enough to tell me anything, and I have yet to find the whole article anywhere.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Mariah Carter

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month I’m featuring a Hispanic missing person every day from September 15 to October 15. Today’s case is Mariah Chavez Carter, a biracial Hispanic and Caucasian girl who disappeared from Biscoe, North Carolina on October 8, 2001. She was almost two months old.

Mariah was the victim of a family abduction; her non-custodial mother, Porfria Salmeron Chavez, took her, possibly to Mexico. There’s a warrant out for Chavez’s arrest, although for some reason it wasn’t issued until six years later.

Mariah would be seventeen today. She may not even realize she is a missing child.