Tuesday, December 03, 2019

People v. Leelu (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 3, 2019)

It's a telling sign when the Court of Appeal says that, under the relevant statute, a defendant's mental competence should definitely have been evaluated by two different experts (rather than only one), but that the defendant was so clearly out of it that the error was harmless.  Which is what happens here.

You can see why, though.  Ms. Leelu was charged with trespassing, and then later charged with stalking.  She wanted to represent herself.  (Always a bad sign.)  She tells the trial court:

“I know my rights. I can have jury trial representing myself. [¶] . . . [¶] All psychiatry. And they arrest me so many times in the past couple years, but now I want to be candidate of U.S. senator. We need to change to make a difference, as Donald Trump said.”

Well, now.  All right, then.  Not the most relevant commentary in the world, but at least I know what you're saying.

But it gets worse.

When the trial court expresses doubts about Ms. Leelu's competence, she responds:  "I will let all 32 million people know this judge use police to harass me and my husband and always do things, keeping asking money from me, no jury trial at all. And the police chief right to hire and --.”

Okay.  That's not exactly helping you there, Ms. Leelu.  Pretty much exactly the opposite.

The doctor who subsequently evaluates her gets to spend more time with her.  And gets more of the same.  Plus. 

"Dr. Cohen opined Leelu “is not rational or coherent in conversation, she cannot express herself such that others can understand her meaning, and she misperceives, or cannot comprehend what others are saying to her. She is confused and misinformed about her legal case, and gets facts intertwined with her delusions.” For example, Leelu “insists that her attorney is ‘The Senior Minister of the Interior,’ from Canada, and he would be defending her except he lost his Canadian driver’s license, and must return home to get a replacement.” Dr. Cohen observed Leelu “spoke in a rapid, pressured manner. . . . Much of her speech was repetitious, involving favored paranoid themes of individuals, government and religious organizations planning to harm her, the police harassing her, and her ability to discern ‘hidden’ meanings and messages that escaped the notice of everyone else. She was almost never able to speak in a manner that was rational, coherent, or logical. For example, when asked how she remembers things that may be important to her in the future, she replied, ‘I have a diamond ring with an iPad inside it.’”

And now you see why the Court of Appeal holds that the failure to appoint a second expert was harmless.  'Cause we sort of know how that second one would have come out.

Though I'd have loved to check out that alleged "diamond ring with an iPad inside it."  Sounds cool.