Criminal charges and subsequent trials will often involve a psychological review to determine if the defendant has the mental competency for trial. In a recent Alabama case, a 34-year-old man allegedly instigated a police standoff in a parking lot days after he was accused of killing a woman. He was admitted to a mental treatment facility and found to be “unfit for trial.” According to reports, he was charged with second-degree murder in February for an allegedly stabbing a local woman who had gone missing.
In some criminal cases, the culpability of the defendant hinges on intent, or “mens rea” (Latin for “guilty mind”), as it is known under the law. Whether or not the defendant knew what he or she was doing or whether the individual had the intent to commit a crime can make a difference in the results of a case. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are experienced in handling violent cases and will explore every available defense for our clients. We understand the complex nature of assault and homicide cases and will perform a thorough investigation on behalf of every defendant. In addition to our defense practice, we are abreast of cases and developments throughout the state of Alabama.
According to reports, the defendant was involved in an extended standoff with the local SWAT team as he paced through the parking lot of a convenience store while threatening suicide. At the time, authorities were also searching for a missing 26-year-old woman, with the suspicion that there was foul play involving her disappearance. The remains of the missing woman were recovered days after the convenience store standoff.
An Alabama court held a “lunacy hearing” to determine whether the suicidal suspect was fit to stand trial for murder. According to the District Attorney and doctor reports, the defendant was not fit for trial and will be transferred from his holding cell in jail to a mental treatment facility to address his illness. The defendant is represented by a public defender who filed a motion requesting that the judge set a hearing to determine the mental condition of the defendant. The hearing reviewed the mental state of the defendant at the period of the alleged crimes, as well as his current mental condition.
Expert testimony indicated that the defendant “may not be of sound mind and understanding and may have been insane at the time of the alleged offense and/or may be insane now.” Furthermore, the medical experts indicated that the defendant was mentally unfit for trial. The court will have another review of the defendant’s mental state again this summer. The defendant has not yet been formally charged with any crimes; however, the state could file charges against him while he is in treatment. He cannot be arraigned until the court finds that he is competent to stand trial.
Any case involving mental competency should be reviewed by an experienced advocate, especially if the criminal charges could result in serious penalties. Defendants only have one opportunity to protect their rights and individuals with mental illness need strategic and informed defense to navigate the criminal justice system.