Impact of Services
Sample cases in the context of competency assessment:
State v. Jesse James Scholler,
Snohomish County Superior Court,
Case Nos. 08-8-00426-1 and 08-9-00443-1
Excerpts from Ruling by Thomas J. Wynne, Judge (August 6, 2008):
"Jesse has a 5th grade reading level but he comprehends what he reads at only the 3rd grade level. He is at the educational level of an 8 year old."
"The Court is going to give greater weight to Dr. Brown's testimony in this case based on the additional time she spent with Jesse and in consultation with Jesse's special education teacher as well as Ms. Conner's testimony than the testimony of the State's expert witness."
"I think Jesse clearly understands the nature of the proceeding against him and what he is charged with doing. He does have FAS. As a result of that, he does have significant executive functioning deficits. His verbal skills are such that apparently those deficits are masked to a large extent to those who don't know him or don't have a better understanding of what those deficits are."
"In any case, I am persuaded that evidence in this case reflects that Jesse does not have the capability to meaningfully assist his attorney in his own defense due to his executive functioning deficits as a result of FAS, and that based on that he would not be competent to assist in his own defense in this matter. And, I will reverse the previous finding of competency based on the extended testimony we have heard here and find that he is not competent to stand trial in this matter."
"I do not see any ability to restore competency given the nature of the disability."
State of Washington v Jason Wendell Thornton,
Kitsap County Superior Court,
Case No. 09-1-01284-7
Excerpts from Ruling by Judge Theodore Spearman (6/13/11):
"Symptoms are relevant only when linked with an impairment in the abilities necessary to understand legal proceedings and participate in one's defense. Consequently, the specific psychological abilities required of a defendant are the most important aspect of assessing fitness"
"The early education teachers reported him to be compulsive, a liar, that he also felt that tall tales were normal. They thought at times he either believed them or was acting under delusion. The Court finds that it was not delusion; it was more a belief in what he was saying after a while."
"Neuropsychological testing was done and confirmed the diagnosis. The IQ disparity with adaptive living was consistent with the diagnosis. Medical examination was also confirmed and done."
"The alcohol-related or the ARND showed that his executive function, such as ability to take steps one, two, three and on, were greatly impeded. He's hyper suggestible. And this comes from the impairment of the executive function…. While there's memory of a lot of events and skill at being able to cover for what is missing, I find that that is just that, a cover."
"Compliance with authority figures is a hallmark of this illness, particularly speaking to the alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorders, and it follows because they will follow the lead of the authoritative person and the more acquiescence they will show and are highly suggestible. This is confirmed by -- The Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale confirmed it."
"Overall, the results of the assessment indicated that Jason is suggestible and quite prone to changing his responses in the face of negative feedback, which the Court finds would make him highly susceptible to a skilled cross-examination, which would defeat the integrity of this court."
"In this case, I'm persuaded that reliability really flies out the window if you have got the two dynamics going on, as in this case, the impaired executive functioning along with the suggestibility and the memory impairment, which causes confabulation to this extent. Reliability is nil, it was put, essentially with the perfect storm deficits, as it was also referred to."
"As a result of this brief summary – I should point out, the hearings went on for several days -- the Court has concluded that Jason is not competent for these proceedings to continue."