State experts have concluded the man accused of killing 10 people in a Colorado supermarket was not competent to stand trial, but a judge granted prosecutors’ request to have his mental health assessed a second time, according to court documents released Monday.
The initial assessment report has not been released but, according to a dossier filed by prosecutors, experts have tentatively diagnosed 22-year-old Ahmad Alissa with an unspecified mental health condition which “limits his ability. to converse meaningfully with others “and concluded that he is not currently in a position to help his lawyers defend him. Alissa gave “superficial answers” to questions about hypothetical legal situations that indicate a “passive approach to her defense” and “potential over-reliance on her lawyers,” according to excerpts from the report included in the prosecution’s motion last week for a second assessment.
Jurisdiction involves both whether defendants can understand court proceedings and whether they have the ability to work with their lawyers to defend them. This is a separate legal issue from that of a not guilty by reason of insanity plea, which depends on whether a person’s sanity has prevented them from knowing right from wrong when ‘a crime has been committed. Court hearings are usually suspended when a judge finds that an accused is incompetent, but can resume if and when their condition improves, including with treatment.
While prosecutors said assessors found Alissa understood the legal process, her lawyers disputed this. The defense, also citing the assessment report in a file, said Alissa was obsessed with the possibility of the death penalty in the case even though it is not a possibility. Colorado ended the use of the death penalty last year. He also believed the judge, rather than a jury, would decide his fate, the defense said.
Judge Ingrid Bakke had ordered the state’s mental health assessment after Alissa’s lawyers questioned her jurisdiction based on an assessment by their own expert.
Alissa faces multiple charges during the March shooting at a crowded King Soopers supermarket in Boulder. Ten people were killed, including a policeman, before the police shot and injured the gunman and escort him from the scene.
Investigators have not revealed any possible motive for the attack.
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