Monday, November 01, 2010

'Special Needs Defender' in Lubbock handling mentally ill misdemeanants

In Lubbock, the Avalanche Journal had a story yesterday about the county's Special Needs Defender Office created last year, a public/private hybrid system described thusly ("New screening, special defender's office helps Lubbock County with mentally ill"):
while county officials agree more changes are necessary to ensure mentally ill defendants don’t languish in jail, improvements such as specialized screening at the jail and cooperation between the Lubbock Special Needs Defender’s Office, defense attorneys and the probation office have streamlined identifying mentally ill defendants and getting them through the system.
The Special Needs Defender’s Office provides private appointed legal representation, as well as specialized one-on-one care outside the jail to help ensure defendants make their court dates and don’t end up back in jail.

The office is a synthesis of a board, director, 21 attorneys on an appointment wheel and two social workers. The program is the first of its kind in Texas and works with defendants from arrest through disposition.

Since November 2009, the office has received 367 qualifying referrals out of 1,777 total referrals.

Of those 367, 208 were accepted, according to data from the defender’s office.

The office represents defendants who are charged with felonies or Class A or B misdemeanors, are indigent and have a qualifying mental health illness or condition like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.

County officials began looking into establishing a program to represent defendants with special needs when they realized the people spending the longest amount of time in jail were individuals who had mental health issues.
RELATED: From Simple Justice.


Anonymous said...

I guess after years of employing Dr. Ralph Erdmann for all those years, they finally realized they had a lot of experience in dealing with the mentally ill and might as well use that knowledge.

L Lockard Roth said...

A Lubbock jury sentenced John Kyle Lockard to 97 years in jail recently and denied his plea of temporary insanity. This after the defendant had to be removed from the courtroom by the Judge for objecting to the statements made about him in court even by his own lawyer. It was known during the pre-trial period that Lockard had been diagnosed a few years before the crime as a schizophrenic by the US Navy and dismissed from service.

Interestingly, the Special Need Defender's office has no record of this defendant in their computer system. The lawyer appointed by Judge Blackburn to represent Lockard was not a lawyer on the roster of the Special Needs Defender. Lawyers on the SN Defender Roster are lawyers who have education in perplexities of the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped.

Lockard who committed a capital murder in 2008 was allowed to languish in jails for two and one-half years. He was moved from county to county jail in West Texas almost eight times in that time. His lawyer did not consult with him except to offer him a plea deal. Lockard chose a juried trial over a plea deal because he believed that the Constitution gave him the right to a trial by jury and he believed when they heard the details he would be found to be insane at the time of the crime.

He took the stand in his own defense and claimed that he killed his 95 year old grandfather because it "was the will of God". He produced 400 pages of mathematical proof that he had solved the "Prime Sequence" and that it was crucial to the US that this proof not fall into enemy hands.

Evidence was presented that his father had also been diagnosed with schizophrenia. His maternal uncle was mentally ill. The victim had parental custody of Lockard since he was a toddler. The victim had severely beaten and abused Lockard since he was a child and kept him from having social contacts outside the home.

I am not convinced that the office of Special Needs in Lubbock is anything but a showcase. Only time will tell if Lubbock will put any teeth in mental health defense. In defense of the office it is true that is has only been operational for one year. However, once more a mentally ill person has been allowed to fall through the cracks. I am personally sick of that excuse.