WAUKESHA, Wis. (CN) – The Wisconsin girls charged as adults for the attempted homicide of their 12-year-old best friend are competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Thursday.
Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser were both 12 this past spring when they led their friend into the woods during a sleepover and stabbed her 19 times, according to the complaint against them.
The classmate, identified only as P.L. in the court record, recovered.
Though Geyser’s attorney, Anthony Cotton, noted that his client was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, he said he did not see any reason to challenge Dr. Kenneth Casimir’s finding of competency.
The girls’ attorneys will seek a reverse waiver to send the case back to juvenile court in the event probable cause is found at the preliminary hearing, which is set for February and will address both cases.
Police picked Weier and Geyser up on May 31, within hours of the sleepover stabbing. The criminal complaint states the pair had planned the stabbing for months, believing their killing of P.L. would impress an online boogeyman called Slenderman whom they believed had a mansion in Nicolet National Park.
Today’s ruling means each girl has been found able to understand the proceedings and assist with her own defense.
For several hours Thursday morning, Judge Bohren heard testimony from three doctors in Weier’s case, one of whom was appointed by the court while Weier’s defense team retained the other two.
Dr. Robert Rawski found Weier competent to stand trial, based in part on her responses to hypothetical legal situations in which he asked her advice to a fictional defendant.
Defense attorney Joseph Smith Jr. questioned Rawski’s decision not to use the Juvenile Adjudicative Competence Interview tool the other doctors used with Weier.
Rawski said he did so in part because Weier is not being tried in juvenile court, thus making many of the questions inapplicable.
Citing Weier’s maturity and nearly superior intelligence for her age, Rawski also said that calling her incompetent compared to her juvenile peers in the criminal-justice system would not make sense.
Dr. Anthony Jurek, one of the defense’s doctors, disagreed with Rawski’s finding of competence, citing responses from Weier during interviews that indicated she did not understand the nature of the parties in court.
When asked the role of the prosecutor, for example, she answered that they were there to help her in her case instead of recognizing the adversarial relationship between them, Jurek told the court.
Weier also expressed reluctance to tell her defense attorneys the truth, believing her attorneys could not help her if they believed her to be guilty, the doctor said.
Jurek said Weier’s belief in telling the truth to whomever asked, as opposed to following legal strategy and advice, demonstrated “concrete thinking,” indicating underdeveloped, childlike thought processes about the criminal-justice system and her place in it.
The defense’s second doctor, Dr. Michael Caldwell, said Weier exhibits signs of schizotypy, meaning she tends to make important decisions based on one minor factor – such as her telling a police officer everything immediately following the incident instead of waiting for an attorney because she was worried about what the investigator would think of her.
As far as Weier’s responses to Rawski’s hypotheticals, Caldwell said the developmental stage of her limbic system makes it easier for her to give advice to a third party without being able to make the same good decisions for herself.
Prosecutor Ted Szczupakiewicz told the court that he did not believe Caldwell would find any person Weier’s age competent based on his criteria.
Further, he said Weier demonstrated competency when she tried to have her defense team seek reduced bail based on her parents’ income.
Prior to giving his ruling from the bench, Judge Bohren emphasized Weier’s intelligence and maturity and her “rational, competent answers,” which he stated outpaced the competency of many adults and children in the criminal-justice system.
Bohren granted the defense’s motions to allow Weier a free hand to take notes, plus an hour post-trial in the Waukesha Secure Detention Facility to consult with her attorneys after court hearings before officers return her to the Washington County Secure Detention Facility.
Weier may also now visit with her family in Waukesha.
Maura McMahon, Weier’s other attorney, said she was grateful the motions were granted, particularly in light of the judge’s finding of competency.
“We weren’t sure how the judge would to rule on this, because maturity is always a question,” McMahon told reporters after the hearing. “But when doctors who have as much knowledge as both Dr. Jurek and Dr. Caldwell do agree that there’s a level of incompetence, we have an ethical duty in Wisconsin to raise it regardless and bring it to the court’s attention.
“It was important for the judge to hear that information and to get a better sense of who our client is,” McMahon said before leaving to consult with Weier.
In a truncated afternoon hearing, Cotton, Morgan Geyser’s attorney, told the court he would not be challenging Dr. Casimir’s finding of competency.
This is contrary to his initial position following the report’s release, after which he asked for today’s hearing to present a report from another doctor.
“There was a doctor’s conclusion that she was competent, and I don’t think there’s a particularly strong basis to challenge it at this point,” Cotton told reporters after the hearing.
Cotton also said it is too early to say whether he will be pursuing a finding of not guilty by mental disease or defect.
Geyser will remain housed at the Winnebago Mental Health facility by court order, which Cotton said is the best option for treatment of her schizophrenia.
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