The mental state of a defendant in any criminal trial in Madison County is an important issue. All defendants are initially presumed to be fit to stand trial, but if the court finds that the defendant is unable to understand the proceedings and assist in his defense, the defendant may be declared mentally unfit to stand trial.
A resident of Glen Carbon was recently charged with defacing more than 200 grave markers by painting swastikas on them. He was also charged with painting swastikas on private homes, cars and three churches. At an initial hearing on June 1, a judge found that there was “bona fide doubt” about the man’s fitness to stand trial, and the judge ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation by a court-appointed psychologist.
The results of the psychiatric evaluation were disclosed in a court hearing on June 15. The defendant refused to answer the judge’s questions. The judge asked the defendant if he did not intend to answer his questions, and the defendant did not respond. After the defendant refused to answer other questions posed by the judge, he was declared to be unfit to stand trial. He will receive treatment from the Illinois Department of Human Services, and his fitness to stand trial will be evaluated again after he completes the treatment regimen. The defendant will remain incarcerated while he undergoes the treatment.
A finding of unfitness to stand trial is not the same as a verdict of insanity. The former merely delays the trial, while the latter finding results in a judgment of not guilty. Anyone who is facing criminal charges and whose mental capacity may affect the outcome of the proceeding may wish to consult – or have a personal representative consult – an experienced criminal defense attorney for advice. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide valuable assistance in deciding whether to assert that the defendant is unfit for trial or that the defendant is innocent by reason of insanity.