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Attempted murder charges dismissed due to client's mental illness

Attorney Katie Kauffman got an attempted murder charge dismissed for a client whom doctors for the state and defense agreed was mentally incompetent to stand trial.

A Clark County deputy prosecutor dismissed the criminal charge on June 11. The client remains at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Wash., where he may be stay pending an evaluation to determine whether he should be civilly committed. 

Kauffman’s client, 42, was arrested in August 2020 by Vancouver police officers after allegedly stabbing a man outside Living Hope Church. The stabbing victim worked for the church, helping manage what was described in police reports as an “improvised tent village.” Kauffman’s client had been among those sleeping in tents outside the church.

He was charged with attempted murder in the first degree, a class A felony punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison.

After an initial court finding the client was mentally incompetent, he was ordered to Western State Hospital for a 90-day restoration period. After that failed, he was ordered to stay at the hospital for an additional 180 days. He was also court-ordered to be medicated.

At the end of his second stay at the hospital, one Western State psychologist wrote in her evaluation that the client understands he’s charged with a crime. “However, he lacks the capacity to assist in his defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, due to continued symptoms of a mental illness,” she wrote.

She concluded additional time at the hospital would not help him meet the legal standard for competency.

The client “currently exhibits ongoing symptoms of a thought disorder, including significant delusional ideation, auditory hallucinations and cognitive disorganization, which impairs his competency-related abilities,” she wrote. “His overall presentation suggests that he exhibits confusion when discussing relevant information pertaining to his mental health and legal situation; this in conjunction with his delusional beliefs likely influences his ability to consult with his attorney.”

Tags: criminal law, Clark County, Western State Hospital , murder

Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders