ST. GEORGE – A recent mental evaluation declaring a teen murder suspect mentally competent drew “serious misgivings” from the defense, who told the court in St. George Thursday that he believes the report is not thorough enough to provide an adequate declaration.
The evaluation was the third conducted on Joshua Canfield, 18, who is accused of killing 58-year-old Toquerville resident Geraldine Bommerito in March 2014. The evaluation, performed by Dr. Patrick Panos, was to be a tie-breaker to determine whether or not Canfield was considered competent to aid in his defense.
Edward Flint, Canfield’s attorney, told 5th District Judge John J. Walton the defense didn’t plan on disputing the two original evaluations – one declaring Canfield competent and the other declaring him incompetent. However, Panos’ evaluation gave Flint and a consultant reviewing the report cause for concern. Flint had questions about the evaluator’s choice of tests used on his client as well as the qualifications of the evaluator himself.
“If there are objections to the report, the doctor should be here to defend it,” Deputy County Attorney Zachary Weiland said.
Walton also said he would like the doctor present; nevertheless, he allowed Flint to outline his objections for the court.
The report is “very minimalistic,” Flint said, adding he felt it was put together in a hasty manner and done without review or comparison with preexisting evaluations. The defense doesn’t believe the doctor spent enough time making an adequate conclusion, he said.
Two tests used on Canfield are out of date, Flint added. One test, based on the DSM-VI, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, was no longer valid as of Oct. 1, 2014, Flint said.
Flint said the second test, the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool, or MacCAT, “is an older test, and there are issues as to its validity.”
According to peer reviews critical of the MacCAT, Flint said, the test doesn’t measure a defendant’s ability to consult with counsel very well, nor does it address issues of malingering. Malingering, Flint said, relates to someone lying on a test to get a desired result.
“My concern is malingering can cut both ways,” Flint said. “People will malinger and fake their symptoms and be found not competent, and will say the right magic words so they’re found competent – which appears to be the case here.”
Canfield wants to be declared competent so he can plead guilty and go to prison, because his current living conditions are less than beneficial, Flint said.
Canfield has been kept in solitary confinement and is under 24/7 watch by sheriff’s deputies at the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility due to four suicide attempts. He also has little to no human interaction for long periods of time, aside from the deputies, Flint said.
Flint said he doesn’t consider his client competent and continued questioning whether or not Panos’ evaluation was conducted correctly, as the tests involved can also be very age specific.
Flint additionally wondered if Panos had the proper qualifications to conduct mental evaluations. Under state law, Panos meets the qualifications, Flint said, adding the standard for mental competency in Utah is rather low in the first place.
“(The report) is deficient and may not provide the court with adequate information,” Flint said.
Walton said Flint’s objection could be applied to the other evaluators, as well, not just Panos.
“I really can’t respond to these accusations without the doctors here,” Weiland told the court.
Walton agreed and said the court could look over the three evaluations again but ultimately would need to call in the evaluators to testify.
A new hearing was set for April 3 at 9 a.m.
Canfield allegedly killed Geraldine Bommerito during a residential burglary on March 19. According to court records, he allegedly stole Bommerito’s car, two guns and some collectible coins, which he later used at a gas station in Washington City. The action raised suspicion, and police were contacted about the incident. Authorities were given a description of the car Canfield was driving, and that led them to Bommerito’s home.
Police tracked the car, and Canfield, to Springdale. The car had been abandoned and torched near the resort town. Canfield was found and was allegedly combative with officers when taken into custody. At one point, he attempted to harm himself and was placed on suicide watch for a time after being incarcerated at the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Canfield has been charged with nine felonies and three misdemeanors in relation to the case.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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