Supreme Court of Arizona, Pinal County Superior Court
Client was an 28 year old intellectually disable man. He was arrested for possession of child pornography after a federal task force traced a download of materials to his home computer. Local law enforcement took over the case and arrested him. He was interrogated without an attorney or even his parents being notified of his arrest. During questioning he admitted that once a few years prior he had hidden in the closet while his 13 year old sister changed into her swimming suit. She caught him in the closet before she had changed. He was charged with possession of child pornography and felony voyeurism. Possession of child pornography carries a prison term of 15 years per item, lifetime probation and lifetime sex registration in Arizona. The offer from the district attorney was 12 years of prison. The defense centered on the client’s competence to stand trial. The client had suffered encephalitis as a child which had not only exacerbated his intellectual disabilities, but had also diminished his cognitive capabilities severely. Two separate forensic psychological/neurological experts examined the client. One gave the opinion that the client was incompetent to stand trial or assist in his defense, as well as, unable to be rehabilitated and trained to understand our complex legal system. The second expert offered the “guarded” opinion that the client was currently incompetent but could be rehabilitated to understand the legal system and face trial. A court hearing went forward on the issue of the client’s competence. The standard of proof for such hearings in Arizona is “clear and convincing evidence” (a firm belief or conviction) that the client is either competent or incompetent. That standard of proof is greater than that of California or Federal courts which only require a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) in such matters. As a result, the court ordered a 3rd forensic psychologist to begin the rehabilitation process with the client. After 3 months of weekly sessions with the client the 3rd expert concluded that the client was incompetent to stand trial and not able to be rehabilitated.