Monday, November 2, 2009

Truvia Ruled Fit to Proceed (without an evaluation): Where's Integrity in the Justice System?

Surely this will be contested/appealed, but I'm not certain what the process for this is in the juvenile system. It's a shame that Judge Getz would risk not having an evaluation for fitness to proceed. The whole nation is watching this and the prudent action would be to err on the side of caution. A report from Terrell State Hospital in May as evidence that he is fit to proceed? A six month old report about crisis stabilization is an inadequate substitute for a fitness to proceed evaluation. Rather, it is evidence FOR the evaluation. Are they so anxious to prosecute this child that they risk the case by not utilizing integrity and prudent protocol?

In a bizarre twist, Bishop LJ Guillory, founder of Ombudsman International, a non-profit government oversight agency (whatever that is) accuses Truvia's attorney, James Huggler, of being incompetent. He premises this by suggesting that Huggler has refused assistance from a criminologist from Wiley College. This just distracts from where the focus needs to be. According to Texas Law, only a psychiatrist or a psychologist with a specific forensic training can evaluate fitness to proceed. Mr. Huggler is smart to be weary of free expertise from a criminologist (is there a licensure for this in Texas?) Free expertise is often the costliest of all, when it comes to the future of this child's defense. There is nothing to suggest James Huggler is incompetent; Guillory's argument is just fallacious. Providing documentation from the state hospital and TYC are perfectly acceptable means of providing support for the motion to evaluate for fitness to proceed.

By the way, the state has petitioned to try him as an adult.


Judge: John Tyler Stabbing Suspect Fit To Stand Trial
Staff Writer

Smith County Judge Floyd Getz today ruled that the 16-year-old youth who is accused of fatally stabbing John Tyler High School teacher Todd Henry in September is competent to stand trial.

Henry, a special education teacher, was stabbed in the neck and chest inside of his classroom on Sept. 23, allegedly by the youth who is in custody at the Smith County Juvenile Attention Center.

Defense Attorney Jim Huggler said he filed the motion to determine competency on the day the youth was arrested in the stabbing, after spending six hours speaking with him.

“I have spent about 30 hours with him since then,” Huggler told the judge, "and most of his answers are monosyllabic, and he doesn’t understand or remember our conversations.”

In a recent meeting with the youth, Huggler said he commented on the color of the orange jumpsuit the youth was wearing, telling him it was a nice orange color.

“About 15 minutes later, I told him I thought he was wearing a nice red shirt, and he agreed with me that it was red.”

Huggler said his client does not comprehend information, adding that he does not know why Judge Getz waited until Monday to issue the competency ruling. He said that his client had been in the custody of the Texas Youth Commission, which diagnosed the youth with schizophrenia in 2007 or 2008 for other issues which he did not name. The TYC sought and got a civil commitment for the youth to Terrell State Hospital in May. Huggler said the youth returned from the hospital and was back with the TYC in June.

Huggler said he had requested documents from the TYC for the hearing repeatedly, but had never received them.

Smith County Assistant District Attorney Taylor Heaton read from documents provided by Terrell State Hospital from May, which stated that the youth’s mental status was “alert and oriented, and his thought process seems goal-directed.”

Judge Getz, who took some time before the hearing to read the documents from the hospital, said that the records showed some manipulative behavior on the part of the youth.

“What you’re telling me is not consistent with what I am reading,” said Getz.

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