Lawyers Want Garland's Competency Tested

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 1, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Helen Garland, the 74-year-old woman accused of beating her 85-year-old sister to death last year, may not be fit to stand trial, according to her attorneys.

Her lawyers, Barbara Keshen and Dorothy Graham, recently filed a motion with the court for a competency hearing to determine if their client is mentally aware.

The motion was granted and a hearing has been scheduled for March 21 at Rockingham County Superior Court.

Her lawyers filed the motion after they met with Garland in early February to discuss the possibility of a plea bargain.

According to court documents filed by her attorneys, Garland was extremely unfocused at the meeting and was unable to comprehend the evidence against her.

"A defendant who does not have the capacity to understand and appreciate the nature of the charges against her is not competent to stand trial," stated Graham and Keshen.

"She appears to lack the capacity to assess the strength of the state's case and is therefore unable to make a knowing, intelligent decision to proceed to trial or accept a plea."

Her attorneys say they have serious doubts whether Garland "can meet the stress of a courtroom situation without her rationality or judgment breaking down, that she can give and receive advice from her attorneys, that she can decide upon the advisability of resolving her case by plea bargain as opposed to going to trial, that she can testify in a rational and coherent manner."

Garland is charged with second-degree homicide and several assaults, including punching and kicking her sister.

If convicted, Garland could face the rest of her life in jail.

Garland is to be evaluated by Dr. Helene Presskreischeck, a forensic psychologist, who will report back to the court at the hearing.

Meanwhile, Garland's lawyers have also been trying to get her alleged confession thrown out of court. They filed a motion in Rockingham County Superior Court saying the interrogation techniques used by police were "specifically designed to induce a suspect into making a confession irrespective of the truth of the confession" and, as a result, it should not be used against their client.

Prosecutors filed a response to that motion, saying Garland's statements were voluntary and that she was not tricked into confessing.

A hearing on both motions has been continued.

Garland was arrested March 26, after she allegedly admitted to kicking and beating her older sister, Alice Keyho, who was found dead March 23 on an enclosed porch at the home they shared on Philbrook Terrace.

Initially, Garland told police that Keyho must have fallen down the stairs. But the autopsy report showed that Keyho had been dead for two days and that she suffered bruises on her face and chest, two black eyes, bleeding between her brain and skull, and 22 broken ribs.

Garland allegedly admitted to police that she was unhappy her sister was living with her and would beat her sister on a regular basis.

In an interview with Hampton Union in August, Garland said her alleged confession was made out of frustration after police officers wouldn't take no for an answer.

She also said she loved her sister and never laid a finger on her.