PASCO — A 27-year-old Pasco man who has shut down and stopped caring for himself in jail is in fact "stonewalling" his attorneys and the court because he doesn't want to face the consequences of a murder trial, a state psychiatrist said Wednesday.
Jose Garcia-Morales is dealing with "situational depression" from being locked up in the Franklin County jail, Dr. William Grant testified in a competency hearing.
Behind bars, Garcia-Morales stops talking to people, refuses to bathe or get out of bed and reportedly urinates and defecates on himself, Grant said.
But he said each time Garcia-Morales has been moved to Eastern State Hospital for a mental evaluation, his behavior has changed overnight and he has interacted with staff and patients, he has participated in games such as bingo, ping pong and cards, and he's been seen roughhousing and intimidating others.
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Garcia-Morales' adjustment disorder is a reaction to stress, and if you take that stress away, the symptoms will clear, Grant said. One thing the psychiatrist said he's sure of is if the court or prosecutors decide to "drop the charges, he'll be fine."
But a psychologist hired by the defense to see if Garcia-Morales understands the nature of the legal proceedings against him disagreed, describing him as a "psychotic individual" whose behavior isn't that of a rational person.
"What you see is what you've got. This man is very severely depressed," Philip Barnard said as Garcia-Morales slumped down in a wheelchair next to the defense table.
What would be the purpose of him faking his symptoms, Barnard asked.
"There is no payoff here," he said, because if Garcia-Morales really wants to get out of jail soon, he needs to cooperate and speak to his lawyers so they can prepare his defense. However, Garcia-Morales is not mentally competent, he said.
Garcia-Morales is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
Prosecutors allege he and his older brother, Ramon, fatally shot Alfredo Garcia on Dec. 10, 2008, in the Pasco father's home. Garcia's wife, Maria Ramirez de Garcia, was critically injured but survived.
The brothers allegedly confronted Garcia, who delegated job opportunities to workers in the fields, because the men believed he had deprived them of a job.
They were arrested the next day in Mountain Home, Idaho.
Ramon Garcia-Morales, 30, faces the same charges. His case also is on hold while he undergoes a fourth mental evaluation.
Judge Carrie Runge, who is assigned to Jose Garcia-Morales' case, didn't rule Wednesday on whether he has the mental capacity to proceed to trial. She agreed to wait until after defense lawyer Moe Spencer submits a written declaration about his client.
Garcia-Morales also is represented by Shelley Ajax, who submitted a statement explaining the difficulty she has had in working with him since his "demeanor, appearance and grooming has drastically deteriorated."
When Garcia-Morales used to talk to his lawyers, he "would only discuss complaints about the conditions and what was being done to him and how he was treated at the jail," she wrote.
Ajax said it all comes down to whether their client can communicate with them about "time, dates, witnesses, discussing what route he wants to travel, is he going to testify, all of those types of things."
But whenever the lawyers meet with Garcia-Morales, he puts his head down and has no eye contact with them, and proceeds to bump into things when walking in the courtroom, she said.
"I don't think he intentionally on his own is saying, 'I'm just not going to talk to my lawyers' ... This makes my job almost impossible, which to me triggers the thought process, 'What do we do to resolve this?' " she said.
Ajax suggested her client be sent back to the Medical Lake facility for a competency restoration.
"Something's wrong. I'm not a doctor. I believe that Mr. Morales cannot rationally cooperate in this case, and I do not believe that he is doing this voluntarily by any means," she said.
Special prosecutor Steve Lowe argued Grant's testimony was persuasive in pointing out that each time Garcia-Morales has been moved to Eastern State Hospital and given a break from jail, his behavior has changed.
Garcia-Morales is being held in isolation because of a number of things he has done in the jail, Lowe said, including throwing urine on other inmates and jumping off a second tier.
However, just because he won't speak to his attorneys doesn't make him incompetent, Lowe said.
Lowe also pointed out that the maximum time a person can serve at the state hospital after twice being found incompetent "is less than a year." The person then could be released.
"He knows what he's doing. He's here frustrating the court," Lowe said. "He's depressed (from being in jail and facing prison). I would be too. I think at this time it's time to move forward."
* Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; email@example.com