By Naya Wiezel
VENTURA, CA – A mental health civil commitment hearing was held in Ventura County Superior Court this week for a man—charged with several felonies and misdemeanors—who has been sent to a state hospital for observation.
The accused, Christopher Vittoria, is being charged with several counts of indecent exposure, possession of a controlled substance, assault with the intent to commit rape, and stalking.
Vittoria pleaded guilty to some of these charges, but several of them were stricken due to mental health concerns.
Vittoria was not present in the courtroom because the court ruled to have him transported to a state hospital.
Assistant Public Defender Bailey Fowler Means was present, defending Vittoria.
The judge also noted in this hearing that she received a personal letter and postcard addressed to her from Vittoria. The judge spoke with the prison, and requested to never receive personal correspondence from him and to have Vittoria’s outgoing correspondences screened in the future.
Court observers explain there are many instances in which the mental health of defendants is brought into question, which plays a key role in sentencing proceedings.
While many individuals who suffer from mental health disorders are given the treatment and resources they need, many are unfortunately punished with no regard for their mental health concerns.
Under California law, the court is obliged to initiate competency proceedings if the judge has a reasonable doubt about the defendant’s competency to stand trial, based on substantial evidence.
This case is still ongoing.