Mental health experts have found Leon Allen Smith competent to stand trial for the stabbing death of Stephan Manuel Pool, despite Smith’s insistence that he suffers hallucinations, nightmares and paranoia.
According to a recent mental health report, Smith remains largely evasive, dismissive and uncooperative with all clinical assessments. His treatment team, though, has not observed any behaviors consistent with Smith’s reported symptoms. Evaluators believe Smith is feigning incompetence to avoid prosecution.
At a hearing Friday, Madalyn Harvey, Smith’s defense attorney, said she may contest the finding of competence.
Smith, 29, was arrested Sept. 2, 2012, on suspicion of second-degree murder in connection with the stabbing death of Pool. Smith’s preliminary hearing has been postponed pending a mental health determination.
Prosecutors believe Smith stabbed Pool in the chest after Pool and Smith’s girlfriend hugged. Charging documents in the case say Pool had driven the woman to see Smith in the 200 block of N Street Southwest. The woman told police that after she hugged Pool, Smith punched him one time in the chest. The woman said that after the punch she saw Smith holding a silver knife with a blue handle.
On May 20, 2013, Smith was admitted to Saint Elizabeth’s hospital for a competency screening. He told evaluators he hears “whispers and voices laughing and talking.”
After a mental health examination in June, doctors expressed concerns that Smith may be intentionally trying to avoid criminal proceedings, and further evaluation was ordered.
In the latest report filed July 31, evaluators conclude that Smith is “malingering incompetence to stand trial.”
That report, written and reviewed by several of Smith’s evaluators, states:
Consistent with his presentation during previous attempts to evaluate his competency, Mr. Smith was minimally participative in the process. This level of disengagement has also been noted by his treatment team as well as the instructors of his competency groups. Initially when we approached him for the present evaluation, Mr. Smith attempted to dictate who could be in the room for his assessment, and once the evaluation commenced, Mr. Smith frequently attempted to derail all testing and questioning. This behavior appeared to be volitional and not in any way due to tangentiality related to a major mental illness.
The report goes on to say:
Additional behavioral observations throughout the course of the present evaluation were notable. When asked what his charge was, Mr. Smith stated “Second Degree Assault.” Education was provided regarding his actual charge of Murder in the Second Degree, and Mr. Smith became upset and stated, “Sounds like you’re interrogating me. I’m accused of something I didn’t do. You’re asking too many questions, this is stupid.” When reviewing competency terminologies such as the meaning of a trial, roles of major court personnel, available pleas, among other concepts, Mr. Smith claimed he did not know even the basic definition of pleas of Guilty or Not Guilty. When specifically asked what a trial meant, Mr. Smith stated that a trial is “Something that people go through in life. I’ve never been through a trial, so I really don’t know. I’ve only been through the neglect system.” This statement was contrary to Mr. Smith’s record, which indicated that he has served five years for a previous charge and was previously detained for violation of probation.
The report also says that throughout the course of Smith’s evaluation he was required to participate in cognitive testing. The results of one of the tests suggested that Smith “endorsed an unexpectedly high proportion of symptoms associated with a major mental disorder, which has been inconsistent with his presentation on the unit, and thus indicating the possibility of malingering.”
Evaluators further noted that Smith’s daily behavior is rational, coherent, organized and goal directed; and the report concludes:
All factors considered, it is opined that Mr. Smith is malingering incompetence to stand trial, though this does not imply the complete absence of psychiatric symptoms. He does present with some psychiatric symptoms (irritability, anger, anxiety) but these do not appear to significantly affect his capacity to proceed with trial. It is further opined that he understands the nature and gravity of the proceedings against him, is capable of learning information requisite for participating in his defense, working with his counsel in a rational manner to assist in his defense, and is able to maintain appropriate courtroom decorum. His lack of motivation, less than optimal cooperation with various evaluation attempts, and agitated and quarrelsome demeanor are believed to be a willful and intentional attempt to feign incompetence. Thus, it is opined that Mr. Smith has a factual as well as rational understanding of the proceedings against him and has sufficient present ability to assist his attorney in the preparation of his defense.
A mental observation hearing has been scheduled for September 6.
The complete report is below.