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Judge dismisses case for client found mentally incompetent

Attorney Neil Anderson successfully argued this week that his client’s constitutional right to due process had been violated by an unacceptably long wait time to be transported from the Clark County Jail to Western State Hospital.

At the end of the March 21 hearing, District Court Judge Chad Sleight granted Anderson's motion to dismiss the charge of fourth-degree assault domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor, over the objection of a Vancouver assistant city attorney. 

Long waiting lists for beds at Western State Hospital, an inpatient psychiatric hospital near Tacoma, has been a problem for years. The state has paid millions in fines for being unable to admit patients in accordance with court orders.

Anderson’s client was arrested on January 22 for allegedly assaulting his mother, and the next day Anderson asked that his client be evaluated to determine whether he was mentally competent to stand trial.

Doctors from Western State routinely travel to Clark County, and elsewhere, to evaluate defendants. Anderson’s client was interviewed in the jail on January 30. The doctor, in his report, said Anderson’s client has symptoms of a schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic disorder and that he lacks the capacity to understand court proceedings and would not be able to assist in his defense.

On Feb. 13, Sleight, after hearing testimony from a doctor, ordered Anderson’s client to be transferred from jail to the hospital so his competency could be “restored” with forced medication, if necessary.

During the March 21 hearing, Anderson argued that his client has been in jail 36 days since Sleight ordered him transferred and a bed won’t open up at Western State until May.

Sleight called the delay “completely unacceptable” and ordered Anderson’s client to be released from jail and the charge dismissed.

Tags: criminal law, Clark County, Western State Hospital

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