Court’s Mental Competency Experts Questioned – Judge Turns Down Defense Request for Outside Autism Expert

By Michele Chadwick

SANTA BARBARA, CA – A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge this week rejected an appeal by defense counsel to have his client analyzed by an outside resource better equipped with developmental disabilities, opting instead to use court experts.

Antonio Santana Angel Curran-Camacho faces two felonies, including assault likely to produce bodily injury and aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury, and a misdemeanor charge of willful cruelty to a child.

The defense attorney went to treatment courts with the defendant and believes Curran-Camacho to be unfit to stand trial. Judge Jean Dadona, presiding judge of the treatment court at the time, heard the termination hearing to suspend the hearing.

As of now, no experts are appointed after Judge Dadona agreed to allow the public defender to propose alternative experts to better suit the defendant’s needs. These experts were referrals from the Koegel Autism Center.

The public defender believed that these referrals would better address the defendant’s needs and presented this request to Judge Thomas R. Adams, who ultimately did not agree.

The defense counsel’s request in court was permission to get quotes from these referrals then determine the best course of action at a later date, explaining the resources the court follows would not properly address Curran-Camacho’s developmental disability and an outside consultation would be necessary.

She believes that sending the defendant to Tri-Counties would be inappropriate because they “simply have inadequate records.” Defense counsel believes that Curran-Camacho would be ineligible for these services as well.

The defense counsel asked to collaborate with opposing counsel in choosing an expert. She believes that this would provide the most valuable information for the court in a timely and cost effective manner.

Opposing counsel, prosecutor Aaron Corey, did not see the benefit in this course of action but did not oppose the matter. Corey believed the expert search may cause unnecessary delays.

The defense proposed that either the court pay the full price of these consultations or split with her office.

Judge Adams was hesitant to approve this request because this financial request was unusual. He has never received a request like this before, he said.

Rather that investigate outside expert help, Judge Adams decided that two court therapists would perform evaluations rather than hire an outside expert. Then a chamber meeting would be held to discuss the results to determine if an outside expert would be necessary.

About The Author

Michele is a senior at UC Santa Barbara from Los Angles County.

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