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: Theresa Masurat

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 Theresa Masurat, who disappeared from Pasadena, California on August 22, 2014, at the age of 72. Per her brother, Theresa’s father was born in India and her mother in Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately I don’t have anything on Theresa’s disappearance. I think most or all of her family lives in Australia. She does have an IMDB entry, however, that mentions roles in two TV shows from the late 1960s.

Native American Heritage Month: Damon Boyd

In honor of Native American Heritage Month I’m featuring a Native American missing person for every day in the month of November. Today’s missing person is Damon Lee Boyd, a 29-year-old Ojibwe man who disappeared from Itasca County in northern Minnesota on May 27, 2014.

Boyd has both an alcohol problem and some mental illness issues, and he’s been in several treatment centers in the past. He was last seen after “leaving” a residential facility in Polk County, Minnesota. I don’t know whether he was properly discharged from that facility, or absconded.

According to the Facebook page set up for him, he may have been in the Fargo, North Dakota area after his disappearance.

Native American Heritage Month: N’Cita Blue Thunder

In honor of Native American Heritage Month I’m featuring a Native American missing person for every day in the month of November. Today’s missing person is N’Cita Blue Thunder, a 17-year-old girl who disappeared from Beach, North Dakota, a small town on the Montana border, on July 9, 2014. I do not know N’Cita’s tribal info, but it’s noted that her Native name is Black Lance.

Curiously, I can’t find any other trace of N’Cita other than what’s on NamUs. You’d think she’d have had a social media account, but if she did, I can’t find it. Though she was under eighteen when she disappeared, she isn’t listed on the NCMEC.

And I can find out precisely zilch about the circumstances of her disappearance. Few details are available.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Tilana Williams

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 Tilana Catarina Williams, a 20-year-old who disappeared from Auburn, Washington on July 1, 2014.

This is another case about which I know nothing about the circumstances of her disappearance. I did find this Google Plus account and this MySpace that I think might be hers; the photos resemble her, but I’m not sure and I certainly don’t want to accidentally use pictures that are of someone else.

If Tilana is alive — and I’ve find nothing to suggest she is not — she would have turned 25 last week. If that MySpace is hers, she may go by the nickname Lana.

If anyone happens to see this blog who knew Tilana, I invite them to comment below or shoot me an email.

Four year anniversary of Myra Lewis’s disappearance

As the Clarion-Ledger pointed out in this article, today it’s been four years since toddler Myra Lewis disappeared from outside her Camden, Mississippi home. If still alive, she’d be six years old, probably in kindergarten by now.

I blogged about Myra’s case last year. I still wonder if she simply wandered away and perhaps drowned, but there was a pretty extensive search and they presumably checked the local ponds. I hope she’s still alive.