My View: Exchange with Judge McAdam Shows Absurdity of Competency Trial

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – We have now seen almost a week of testimony in the competency trial of Carlos Dominguez, the former UC Davis student accused of the April stabbing deaths of two people in Davis, and nothing has really contradicted the notion that this man is in fact very sick, suffering from schizophrenia and in need of care rather than a jail or prison.

The DA has attempted to argue that he is embellishing his symptoms and will show about a seven-hour interrogation video with Davis PD which supposedly shows him articulate and aware—although the defense has already had professionals testify to the content of those videos and it might not be as clear as the DA is portraying.

Last week, I watched a competency hearing in Modesto—this one was done in front of a judge, not a jury.  Three different psychiatric experts testified—two of them concluded he was competent, but the last one concluded he wasn’t.  The judge clearly had difficulty assessing the conflicting testimony but ultimately ruled that since the expert who evaluated him last not only interviewed him in person, but most recently, and found him not competent, that was sufficient evidence to rule the man not competent and send him to a hospital.

The DA in this case in Yolo demanded that there be a jury trial.  That’s certainly his right under the law, but it’s hard to imagine a more difficult task for the jury.

Well, unless the evidence is clear and overwhelming.  It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Dominguez is in fact competent to stand trial.  We have yet to see the video, however, and maybe that really does paint a different story.  What we do know is that his condition has been alarmingly bad—bad enough that he was 5150’d while at the jail.

Bad enough that Public Defender Tracie Olson intervened along with County Counsel to get him an emergency dose of medication, over Dominguez’ objections.

Bad enough that, during a break, with the jury outside the courtroom, the judge intervened to question the attorneys about getting Dominguez medication.

Mind you, Dominguez could well be competent to stand trial and still present a grave danger to himself (and probably to others).  But the concern by the judge directly challenges the notion that Dominguez is somehow embellishing.

“I’m very concerned about the defendant’s well being,” Judge McAdam told the attorneys.  “I have not been presented with any petition or request for court ordered medication.”

Dan Hutchinson told the judge, “I don’t believe that I have standing to bring that, because I’m his attorney and it puts me in a conflict of interest given that he’s opposing medication.  “But the sheriff’s department can certainly bring that petition before the court and the court and the code actually specifies that there, if there is a competency proceeding, it is to come to the court conducting it.”

He added, “I don’t know why they have not sought that authority.”

No one was certain whether the judge could do this by himself without a motion, but Hutchinson did note that the information in this case was already presented by the sheriff to the court.

The judge pointed out, “Under the unique situation where … we’re in a competency hearing. And the doctors already testified that the defendant lacks insight, will not consent, um, and, um, has presented, um, gravely disabled danger to self or danger to others.”

He noted that it’s “pretty clear that Mr. Dominguez is a danger to others, that’s evident to the court.  We do have medical information that he has a mental condition.  I’m not quite sure why the doctors continue to overlook that.  I guess they haven’t read the charges in this case.”

Hutchinson responded, “Since he’s been in custody, obviously, there’s been no incidents.  He’s made no threats.  No acts of violence.”  But he added, “I would submit he is certainly a danger to himself at this point, given his failure to eat and drink and the situation he finds himself in mentally.”

“Let’s be real,” Judge McAdam said.  “He’s in a suicide smock.  He’s isolated.  He has heavy security.  There’s nobody there that think he’s safe.”  Moreover, “We have overwhelming evidence that he has a mental health condition.”

Hutchinson added, “What I could tell the court, we did consult with county counsel, and it was in, I believe it was the efforts of Ms. Olson [Tracie Olson, the public defender] with County Counsel that ultimately led to the one dose on July 13, because County Counsel did get involved, but they made the decision only to do an emergency order, which did not require court authorization. I can’t speak to why they haven’t come before the court.”

The judge went so far as to suggest the need for a Riese hearing which would establish a Mental Health Conservatorship specifically to address involuntary and emergency medication.

“Dr. Tyler is available the next two weeks. She appears by Zoom. So I am sure if the court requests that we could arrange for her to give testimony by Zoom,” Hutchinson stated.

What is clear from this is that the judge has a grave concern about the well-being of Carlos Dominguez.  He noted the “overwhelming” evidence of a mental health condition.  The need for medication.  The fact that Dominguez is refusing to eat, bathe, or be medicated.

Given what we have heard, there seems at this point to be little chance that Dominguez would be found competent to stand trial at this point.  Certainly that would be a slam dunk were it Judge McAdam making the decision.

I have never seen the urgency here.  The community is protected from Dominguez.  He is in custody and will remain so regardless of the ultimate decision.  Get him medicated.  Get him restored to competence.  And then restart the criminal proceedings and let a court decide if he meets the very high threshold for legal insanity when he committed these crimes.

The competency issue seems like a slam dunk based on what we have seen and now heard.  But the legal threshold of insanity is incredibly high—you could be schizophrenic and still be found legally sane and held responsible criminally.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

1 Comment

  1. Sharla Cheney

    The Judge’s observation mirrors my own. Why bring him to court naked, except for a suicide smock, under heavy guard, if he is “stable” and not needing care and intervention.  One thing is certain – the Yolo County Jail is a woefully inadequate resource to address people suffering from mental illness who are causing problems in our community.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for