Docs: Man not fit to stand trial

2011-09-15T00:15:00Z Docs: Man not fit to stand trialBy Samantha Yale Scroggin/Staff Writer Santa Maria Times

A second psychologist called as a witness for the defense testified Wednesday during the competency hearing of Curtis Martin that the defendant is mentally unfit to stand trial on charges he tried to kill a restaurant server because the employee is gay.

Case attorneys wrapped up heated rounds of questions posed to Dr. Jeffrey Davis on Wednesday afternoon before Senior Deputy Public Defender Robert Ikola called Dr. Robert Owen as his second witness.

Both psychologists testified they believe Martin, a 25-year-old parolee from Santa Maria, is unable to properly assist in his own defense as required under the law.

Owen, who met with Martin on three separate occasions, testified that the man suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, substance abuse problems, an anti-social personality and a mood disorder. Martin has shown himself to be in turn depressed or angry and volatile, depending on his state of mind, according to Owen.

“He is a man who struggles to control his feelings, his mood,” Owen added.

The defense has the burden of proving during the competency trial that started Tuesday before Judge Patricia Kelly in Santa Maria that Martin is incompetent. In order to find Martin incompetent, the jury must agree that more evidence exists in favor of Martin’s incompetency than his competency. The District Attorney’s Office will present evidence that Martin is competent.

Typically, if a defendant in a criminal case is found incompetent to stand 

trial, the person is sent to a state mental hospital and treated until doctors there determine he or she is able to appropriately assist his or her attorney in court.

Martin allegedly stabbed a man in his 30s because the victim is gay. The victim’s name has not been released.

 Martin faces charges of attempted murder, violating civil rights, and special allegations of infliction of great bodily injury, use of a deadly weapon, committing a hate crime and having a prior serious or violent felony conviction, also known as a “strike” under California’s “three strikes” law.

The defendant is being held in county jail without bail because of a parole hold.

Prosecutors allege that Martin’s murder attempt was willful, premeditated and deliberate, which could send him to prison for life if found to be true.

According to Santa Maria police, early in the morning hours of Sept. 14, 2010, Martin knocked on the window of the Denny’s Restaurant on East Main Street, which was closed, and asked to use the restroom.

When he was let in, he approached a group of employees sitting at a table. Martin asked the victim, a waiter at the restaurant, if he was gay. When the victim replied that he was, Martin stabbed him twice, police allege.

The victim recovered from a throat cut and a puncture wound to the side of his neck.

Wednesday afternoon while Davis was still on the stand, Senior Deputy  District Attorney Kevin Duffy vigorously cross-examined the psychologist about his finding that Martin is incompetent for trial despite the fact that Davis was only able to spend about 15 to 20 minutes talking to Martin before Martin refused to cooperate with him.

“He didn’t express any delusional ideas in my time with him,” Davis testified under Duffy’s inquires, adding that he believes Martin understands the potential consequences he faces if convicted of attempted murder and the other charges.

Davis said his finding that Martin is incompetent for trial arises from his belief that if Martin continues to make angry outbursts in court as he has in the past, he could negatively affect the outcome of his trial.

Owen testified during questioning by Martin’s attorney, Ikola, that the first time he tried to talk to Martin, the defendant was unwilling. However, Martin spoke with him on the second two examinations. Although Martin did seem to remain mostly logical during the interviews, the witness said, Martin did express some paranoid beliefs about his family and people who are gay.

Owen said his diagnosis of Martin as schizophrenic plays a large role in his finding that the defendant is incompetent for trial. Martin has refused medication for his mental illness, according to Owen.

Owen is set to return to the witness stand this morning.

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