6. Competent to Stand Trial?

Chapter 6 in a series on mental illness.

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The process of obtaining a conservatorship for my brother has been suspended. The reason, according to William Ortega of the office of the California State Public Guardian, is that my brother is on a hold to determine his competency to stand trial on charges of felony vandalism in a matter unrelated to his original incarceration on a misdemeanor.

While delusional and psychotic, my brother allegedly keyed the car of an old acquaintance and is now facing a second strike felony on those charges. The judge in the case found reason to doubt that Tony is competent to stand trial. So Tony was moved to a hospital where he is required to take anti-psychotic medication while he is “restored to competency to stand trial”. No matter that he committed the act of keying the car while delusional. He just has to be sufficiently stable after taking medication so that he can shuffled back into court and make a decision about his case and be put on trial.

The actual process of “restoring” him can take up to three years of incarceration in the hospital/jail.

In other words, the conservatorship process, which those close to my brother believe to be one last hope for my brother to be required to receive treatment and become stable, is being thwarted by the very criminal justice system that initiated it. The conservatorship process was initiated by the doctors at LA County jail while he was awaiting his hearings. Now that is all to naught. This is bonkers.

Knowing my brother, even after being restored to “competency” he will be in total denial of his mental illness. He will not accept a plea bargain whereby he agrees to a treatment program. He really wants to be normal and not mentally ill so he believes he isn’t and, if the past is any indication, will plead not guilty and prefer to go to prison for a second strike violation. Once in prison, the system will see that he is not stable and will continue to require medication. As before, he will end up in a psychiatric ward of the prison or in a mental hospital/prison, but this time for years as he serves his second strike violation for having been delusional and removing some paint from the side of a car.

This is not to justify vandalism. And, when delusional, my brother can become threatening to both strangers and friends who, ironically, like him and enjoy his company when he is stable. Although he has never harmed anyone, he sometimes makes threats and is a big guy and can be scary. It is his insanity telling him that people are out to get him and his delusions working on his mind, causing him to react in a way that almost makes sense except he is not rational. So the insanity affects everyone. It affects him first and foremost. It affects those he comes in contact with, both friends and strangers. After many years, he continues to relapse. Which is why the disease should be treated by a mandated treatment program. But we have almost no mechanism in U.S. society to require treatment. It falls on the criminal justice system to handle a large percentage of our mentally ill. That is not the kind of society we should accept. Change is needed.

My hope, as reported in http://oceanpark.com/blog/2010/03/mentally-ill-brother-thrown-back-on-the-street/#latest-update , was that his doctors at Los Angeles Twin Towers Correctional Facility would succeed in the effort they started to create a conservatorship. The conservatorship would have been instituted by the State of California and would have provided a mechanism to make legal decisions in Tony’s place about his living situation and his money. He would not have liked it, but it seems to be the only method available to the state other than direct imprisonment to require Tony to take medication and remain stable and functional in society. Now that one hope for progress is being delayed and thwarted by a different court in the bureaucracy while Tony is “brought back to competency to stand trial”.

[Note: Elsewhere see video interview with my brother on September 1, 2009.]

[Note: Elsewhere see excerpt’s of my brother’s writing about his own mental illness .]

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