The strange case of Jose Padilla
Judge Cooke, who allowed limited testimony from brig officials during the competency hearing, said that her ruling should not be construed as a finding on Mr. Padilla's claims of mistreatment during his detention and interrogations at a military brig in South Carolina.
"Those claims are for another day," she said, referring to another pending motion by Mr. Padilla that the charges against him be dismissed because of "outrageous government conduct."
The threshold for legal competency is low, requiring a criminal defendant to have the capacity, on a basic level, both to understand the proceedings and to communicate with his lawyers. Most incompetency claims in federal court are denied, said Christopher Slobogin, an expert in law and psychiatry at the University of Florida, and most defendants found incompetent are clearly psychotic.
If Padilla is guilty of something, of course he should be punished. No one here would argue otherwise. The trouble is that the federal government has sunk so low in the last 5+ years that it has reached a point of no longer being trustworthy. (See last week's report from the Justice Department's inspector general that found that the DOJ has routinely misrepresented the number of terrorism cases it has prosecuted.)
And this I find laughable.
In a 16-page report made public Tuesday, Rodolfo A. Buigas, a Bureau of Prisons psychologist who examined Mr. Padilla for the judge, recommended that he be found competent to stand trial. Mr. Padilla refused to submit to psychological testing, so Dr. Buigas evaluated him by talking to him for about five hours, by examining his records and the reports of experts hired by the defense, and by questioning lawyers and brig officials.
During the hearing, two mental health experts who spent over 25 hours evaluating Mr. Padilla for the defense testified that he was disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his experiences in the brig.
"I'm not sure that any of us know what happened at the brig, but I know that something there put the fear into Mr. Padilla," said Patricia Zapf, a forensic psychologist who examined him. "Mr. Padilla is an anxiety-ridden, broken individual who is incapacitated by that anxiety."
But the Bureau of Prisons psychologist, Dr. Buigas, disagreed with the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He said Dr. Zapf's testing was invalidated by the fact that Mr. Padilla was handcuffed during the tests, a condition imposed on Dr. Zapf by prison officials.
First, a doctor who works for the government spent five hours with the prisoner and claims he has a better diagnosis than doctors who spent more than 25 hours with him.
But what's really rich is this. The government puts Padilla in handcuffs during his psychological exam and then claims in court that the exam isn't valid because he was in handcuffs.
That's the signpost up ahead- your next stop....you know the rest.
Andy in H-burg