Circuit Judge Terence Perkins has ordered a mental evaluation of 17-year-old Brendan Depa, the Matanzas High School student accused of attacking Joan Naydich, his paraprofessional, at Matanzas High School on Feb. 21.
Court documents related to the order for the first time confirm that Depa has been treated for mental illness and is on various medication for psychological issues.
The assault, captured on video, has drawn international attention. Depa was initially charged with assault as a juvenile. Four days later, the State Attorney’s Office opted to charged Depa and try him as an adult, and filed a different charge–aggravated assault of a school employee, a first degree felony.
The judge’s order, signed on Friday, is to determine whether Depa, a special education student believed to have autism, is competent to stand trial. A ruling of competency means Depa will proceed with pre-trial hearings, motions and, potentially–if there is no plea deal–a trial. If Depa is deemed incompetent to stand trial, he will be transferred from a jail in Jacksonville to a state hospital for treatment, until he is found competent, if that result can be attained.
Since he is a juvenile, Depa is being held at the John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention facility on East Adams Street in Jacksonville. He was scheduled for arraignment on Monday. That arraignment has been rescheduled to April 5, pending the results of the mental competency examination. Depa has pleaded not guilty in a written filing with the court on Friday.
That exam will be conducted by Dr. Roger Davis, a court-appointed clinical psychologist based in Jacksonville who frequently conducts such exams for the court. Davis’s report itself will be confidential. Its results and some of its substance will not be, as they will be discussed in open court. The Flagler County School District has been barred by privacy rules from revealing any information about Depa’s status as a student.
The “suggestion of mental incompetency to stand trial” was filed by Depa’s original attorney, Assistant Public Defender Spencer O’Neal, who has since been replaced by Palm Coast attorney Kurt Teifke.
The suggestion of incompetency is a formal document that lists at least nine possible categories that would fit the claim. Four are checked in Depa’s case: he does not appear to appreciate the nature of the charges against him or the range of possible penalties; he does not appear to understand the adverse nature of the legal process (though Depa has been through the juvenile equivalent of the process on at least three occasions previously, when he was 13). He “has been previously evaluated for mental issues, and has undergone treatment,” and is prescribed medication for various psychological issues.
Davis will analyze Depa in relation to each of these categories, and several additional ones, including his “ability to manifest appropriate courtroom behavior” and his “capacity to testify relevantly,” according to the order.
Davis is not only required to reach a determination of competency, but also to make treatment recommendations specific to “the intellectual disability or autism causing the incompetence” and the “training” available or appropriate to treat the disability.
If Depa is deemed incompetent, Davis will have to tell the court whether “there is a substantial likelihood that in the near future [Depa] will inflict serious bodily harm to
himself or another person, as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening such harm” and whether
there are “available, less restrictive alternatives, including services provided in community residential facilities” would enable opportunities for improvement of his condition.
Sounds to me that Depa has exhausted the “least restrictive” environment route…and he will probably not be legally considered a juvenile anymore by the time this process is completed.
Joe D says
The fact that he was under 18 at the time of the incident has to be considered
The Psychologist appointed to evaluate him will have the difficult task ( as mentioned in the above article), of determining this young man’s STATE of MIND at the time of the incident, his understanding of “right and wrong,” his ability to understand and participate in his own defense in the court proceedings, and whether he should be considered “competent” to be held accountable NOW ( or re-evaluated again later, after months/years of psychological treatment) for his behavior.
For the general public, only the final result of the evaluation can be discussed in court. That means the final determination of the evaluation, and the professional recommendations of the psychologist for competency to stand trial, as well as treatment recommendations, if the young man is not found competent to stand trial. By law, the specific DETAILS of this young man’s early and current life will NOT be released to the public….only the final evaluation results and recommendations.
This is a sad situation for all involved, and will likely be a LONG and PAINFUL ( and public) process ….and unfortunately this will all be played out in the international press making the PAIN that much deeper
This (unable to assist in your own legal defense) was the crux of my first post on this matter. And why I’ve said little since.
The basis of my comments on “law and order”
Concerned Citizen says
Where is all the attention on the Para that was nearly murdered while doing her job?
Doesn’t she have rights as well?
JOE D says
YES, most definitely the injured Paraprofessional has rights in this case, but due to the age of the young man and his mental status, those rights are somewhat limited by the courts.
If the County decides there is no competency to stand trial at the moment, then generally the unfortunate victim has few rights, except to provide witness testimony as potentially part of the pre-trial evaluation
If there is a trial ( if competency is established) she can provide testimony at trial, she and her family can provide “victim impact” statements and documentation at the time of sentencing (if things get that far)
As a separate issue, she can hold the Country School District partially accountable ONLY if protocols for safe classroom staffing ratios were not followed, or the student’s (IEP: Individualized Educational Plan), providing for the student’s behavioral management we’re not provided.
This is going to be a long and complicated court case with conflicting emotions or all sides…and prayers go out to the injured school staff, their family and others affected by this violent event
But again, this whole incident shows that mental health treatment is sorely lacking in the US, because it is both expensive and long term….and many people would prefer to “look the other way” until an incident like this occurs, or it occurs within THEIR OWN families….no one is immune from the potential of emotional issues….regardless of race, nationality, sex, religious beliefs or income level!
It seems concerning to me that the doctor assigned to evaluate Depa, according to the above report, is a Psychologist, not a Psychiatrist and that he is a sole practitioner in a one man practice (Getalife LLC) that does not have a history of being reviewed or rated. His own credentials and educational background are not available on the internet.
The judge in this case and the state should take note of this.
As a previous student in Flagler school system. And both parents on the school board and as a teacher in the 80s. Along with children that are on different spectrums of being Autistic.
The fact that this boy has done this before. You can not say that he doesn’t know what is going on!!! And has surpassed the ability to be in public. He has proven, if he feels as he has been provoked. Then he feels he has the right to violate their space and physically abuse them!!!!! No, he has had his chance, and needs to be removed from yhe school system!!!!!!!!!!
@Attention to crime victim rights
Remembering a crime victim
Mike Crichton says
Whether he goes to prison or a mental hospital, he needs to be removed from society for a good long while.
My concern is also, if he is placed in another “least restrictive environment”–or even in a juvenile facility–he may pose a physical threat to other juveniles as well as not being able to appreciate what the consequences of his actions to himself may be, let alone how they effect others around him. This may end up isolating him even more while falsely empowering him in all the wrong ways.
C’mon man says
Young man? Let’s call him an assailant because that’s what he did. He attacked and assaulted an almost 60 year old lady because she took his Mario Cart away.