Tuesday, March 13, 2018

People v. Johnson (Cal. Ct. App. - March 13, 2018)

Yes, the defendant might have been faking it.  Might.  Maybe, just maybe, he simply wanted to delay the trial by getting a competency hearing.

But if that's so, he was doing a darn good acting job.

"Defendant Derek Antonio Johnson . . . engaged in multiple acts of self-mutilation, shouted to voices in his head, could not be quieted during court proceedings, defecated in his pants, was placed in a medical unit at the prison where he was given medication and was put on a suicide watch, and his lawyer expressed doubt throughout the trial about his mental competence to understand the proceedings and to assist in his defense."  And that's just a summary.  The actual facts are incredibly disturbing.  Seems to me like he may well have been having incredibly serious mental problems.

But the trial court thought he was faking it.  Since there were period in which he was normal, the trial judge thought the defendant just wanted a delay in the trial date.

Again:  Maybe.  But when you're faced with substantial evidence -- as here -- that the guy may be incompetent, you've got to hold an actual hearing.  With people who are actually trained to sniff this stuff out.  You can't just come to a conclusion based on your own beliefs.

So holds the Court of Appeal.