Judge halts proceedings against kidnap accused

A judge temporarily suspended criminal proceedings yesterday against the man accused of kidnapping Jaycee Dugard when she was a child and holding her prisoner for 18 years, citing worries about the defendant's mental state.



Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister made the decision after a short pretrial hearing for Phillip Garrido.



Phimister said he had concerns about Garrido's mental competency to participate in his defence on 29 counts of kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment in the 1991 disappearance of Dugard. A preliminary hearing where prosecutors would have laid out their evidence against Garrido had been scheduled to start on October 7.



The judge did not halt proceedings against Garrido's wife, Nancy, who faces similar counts. The couple are accused of holding the girl captive in a backyard jumble of tents and sheds for nearly two decades until they were arrested in August 2009.



Authorities said Dugard, who is now 30, bore two daughters to Garrido while being held.



The judge said he based his decision on talks with Garrido's attorney and observing the defendant in court over the past few months. A report from a psychiatrist Phimister appointed to assist the defence are pending.



Phimister said he was concerned about Garrido's unresponsive behaviour during earlier hearings.



He said he'd noticed Garrido looking away and appearing not to be listening when his lawyer was talking to him, and frantically scribbling notes when nothing important was happening.



"The court is troubled by these observations," he said.



The judge's action came in response to a private meeting Thursday with Garrido's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Susan Gellman, who has previously stated she thinks her client is mentally ill. She told Phimister that she agreed with his assessment based on her more than 20 visits with Garrido in jail.



"In these meetings, we have had persistent trouble," Gellman said.



District attorney Vern Pierson said prosecutors think Garrido "is in fact competent," but would defer to Gellman and the judge's opinion for now.



Outside court, Gellman described the suspension as a delay that would likely last only a few months and not a strategy to keep her client from being prosecuted.



"This is a fundamental fairness issue," she said. "What we are talking about here is whether a defendant is able to make a decision about his case."



Nancy Garrido is due back in court on October 1 for a final pretrial conference before her October 7 preliminary hearing.



At that hearing, prosecutors would present evidence that the judge would use to decide whether there is enough to put her on trial.



Phimister set another hearing for Phillip Garrido on October 8, where he said he would consider appointing an independent expert to evaluate Garrido. Although he suspended the case against Garrido yesterday, the judge still must hold a full competency hearing.



Similar issues delayed proceedings against the couple accused of kidnapping Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart in 2002 and holding her captive for nine months. The case was postponed for more than six years while Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee underwent psychiatric treatment.



Last November, Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. Mitchell was declared competent in March and his trial has been scheduled for later this year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea