Attorneys Debate Sex Abuse Defendant’s Competence to Stand Trial

Attorneys debated if the defendant in a 2019 sex abuse case is competent to stand trial.

Prosecutors have accused the defendant in this case of sexually assaulting two women while burglarizing three homes in Northwest, DC. He is indicted on 33 counts, which include charges of first-degree and third-degree sex abuse.

The defendant is being represented by Mani Golzari and Ashley Guzman. During opening statements, the defense counsel argued that the defendant fails to grasp basic concepts and has severe cognitive limitations that inhibit him from proceeding to trial. The defense team also asserts that he lacks factual and rational understanding.

The prosecution disagreed with this stance, arguing that the defendant understands his charges and the nature of the offenses he’s accused of committing, as someone who has cycled through the criminal justice system since he was 11 years old. They said he understands the basic facts of the legal system and has been heard having conversations about complex legal issues at St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington’s psychiatric institution. Despite his low IQ, they assert the defendant is competent to stand trial.

The defense counsel called an expert in clinical forensics and neuropsychology to the witness stand during the first day of the proceedings on April 27. As someone who has evaluated the defendant three times over the course of three years, they have concluded that he is not competent to stand trial. This expert said the defendant has cognitive limitations and exhibits “childlike” behavior. He was appointed a legal guardian and has had trouble making decisions independently. 

This particular expert disagrees with the personnel at St. Elizabeths Hospital, who believe the defendant is competent to stand trial.

During cross-examination, the prosecution reminded the court that the defendant was aware of concepts such as a hung jury, probation, legal parties, certain types of evidence, plea deals and sentencing guidelines. They said his competency was not questioned in his previous cases, with parties saying he was “undoubtedly competent.” 

The prosecution also questioned how the expert evaluated the defendant and the conclusions drawn from the evaluations. 

The Jackson hearing spanned from April 27 through April 29, with proceedings scheduled to pick back up on May 23.