November 05, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Six-month sentence for 1985 murder charge
A Harris County, Texas, woman pled guilty to the murder of her husband, according to KHOU.com. The 28-year-old case was vastly longer than the marriage, involving many years in the appeals process and an eventual plea deal.
The details involve the death of a man, allegedly shot in the head while sleeping in his home. The prime suspect at the time was the man's wife, who claimed a rapist entered the home and shot the man with the gun she kept under her pillow. The prosecution was unable to disprove the wife's account, and she was never found guilty of the crime. The man's daughter claimed the wife showed no remorse following his death.
Twenty-three years later, the wife was indicted and arrested when the case was re-opened. Capacity issues led a district court judge to dismiss the case against the woman, who was suffering from pre-dementia and could not remember the details of the alleged killing. The criminal defense attorney
who represented her at the time expressed the wife's relief over the fact that she would not need to be tried for a crime she alleges that she did not commit.
Now, five years have passed, and after a dismissal and a subsequent reversal, a plea deal has been agreed to. KHOU.com reports that the woman admitted to killing her husband 28 years ago. The plea deal involved a relatively short sentence--just six months in the Harris County jail. While the deceased man's stepdaughter expressed that she believed the sentence was unjust, attorneys on both sides of the case expressed factors involved in the short sentence, including the fact that the woman is 71 years old, and apparently suffers from dementia.
Dementia and competence to stand trial
While the details surrounding the woman's ability to stand trial were not publicly reported, criminal defense attorneys responsible for defending the elderly are faced with unique challenges. Last year, the American Bar Association published a special report on "Defending the Elderly," in which it discussed dementia and how it affects the criminal trial process. While the law provides that every elderly client is, at first, presumed to be mentally and physically capable of standing trial, it is the defense attorney's job to address cognitive impairments that may challenge such a presumption.
When an elderly client suffers from dementia, signs and symptoms are not always readily apparent. Dementia can affect one's memory, judgment, language and behavior, and is most often a degenerative, nonreversible condition. Thus, when a client suffers from dementia, depending on the severity of the condition, the client may be deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. Such a finding could be temporary or permanent.
It is unclear whether the Harris County woman who admitted to killing her husband 28 years ago had severe symptoms of dementia. For those who are elderly and are facing a trial or the possibility of a plea deal, it is essential that an experienced attorney assist you in your case. Experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you assert all appropriate defenses, and may help you avoid criminal charges in cases where capacity or competence issues are present.
Article provided by Law Offices of Jed Silverman
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