By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 27, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- While a judge has ruled that Helen Garland, 75, is not currently competent to stand trial in the beating death of her 85-year-old sister, that does not mean she can't be prosecuted in the future.
Judge Patricia Coffey thinks that Garland's competency may be restored with proper medical treatment and has set Dec. 21 for a hearing to see if there are any improvements.
"The court is convinced that there is a reasonable likelihood that the defendant can be restored to competency," stated Coffey.
Garland had been scheduled to go to trial in October on charges of second-degree murder for allegedly beating her sister, Alice Keyho, to death in the home they shared at 10 Philbrook Terrace in Hampton.
Twenty-two of Keyho's ribs were broken and the imprints of rings were in her face.
At Garland's competency hearing on Aug. 31, two expert witnesses offered by the state concerning Garland's mental health seemed only to bolster the defense's claims that their client was unfit.Helen Garland
"The court agrees that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial," stated Coffey. "Although both Dr. (Albert) Druktenis and Dr. (Jerrold) Pollak noted that defendant has a factual and rational understanding of the proceedings against her, both doctors agree that the defendant does not have sufficient present ability to consult with her attorney."
Coffey stated that if a Superior Court determines that the defendant is not competent to stand trial, the court shall order treatment for the restoration of competency unless it determines there is no reasonable likelihood that the defendant can be restored to competency within 12 months.
"Both Dr. Druktenis and Dr. Pollak testified that treatment of the defendant's insomnia and diabetes, along with identification of any other medical factors that may be contributing to the defendant's cognitive functioning, could improve her cognitive abilities," stated Coffey.
Assistant Attorney General Will Delker said he wasn't surprised by the judge's decision.
Delker said Garland will remain free on bail but with added stipulations.
"She is required to visit medical doctors and do what is necessary to see if her competency can be restored," said Delker.
Garland will undergo further evaluation with a neurologist, including having a MRI. She will visit her doctor at least once a month to be evaluated for factors that may affect her cognitive functioning.
At last month's competency hearing, Dr. Druktenis, who holds degrees in psychology and law and conducted the actual competency test on Garland, testified that she shows early signs of dementia.
While she appears to be an average elderly woman in many ways, Druktenis said closer observation shows that at times she is distracted, confused and her memory blurred when it comes to dealing with the facts of the case and the events leading to her sister's death.
He said he thinks that Garland can't interact with her attorneys to form a defense and stay with that defense if she took the stand.
Jurors wouldn't be able to tell whether Garland was being evasive or honestly couldn't remember, he said.
"Where she gets into trouble is when she starts talking about the events themselves," he said. "I don't think she's given a consistent story yet to anyone, even a fake consistent story."
Garland's defense attorneys, Barbara Keshen and Dorothy Graham, who filed the motion for the competency hearing, didn't return phone calls.
They filed for the hearing in February after Garland refused to even consider a plea bargain that the state was offering.
Garland, who was arrested on March 26, 2004, allegedly admitted to police that she was unhappy that her sister was living with her and would beat her sister on a regular basis.
When asked to elaborate further on her alleged abuse toward Keyho, Garland told police, "I don't hit her often. She'd grab hold of my hand so I couldn't hit her again. I would never hit her in the head, it was around her chin."
Garland also told police that "she didn't mean to kill her sister."
In an interview with The Hampton Union last year, Garland said her confession was forced and that she never laid a hand on her sister.
"I loved my sister," Garland said. "My sister loved me. We had a good relationship."