Motion Is Made To Deny Garland Competency Case

Hampton Union, Tuesday, December 20, 2005

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

HAMPTON -- A hearing on whether Helen Garland is still unfit to stand trial in the beating death of her 85-year-old sister may be postponed.

According to a spokesperson of Rockingham County Superior Court on Monday, the hearing was still scheduled for Wednesday but there is a motion on the table to postpone it.

The hearing comes in the aftermath of Rockingham County Superior Judge Patricia Coffey ruling in September that Garland, who is free on bail, is not competent to stand trial.

Competency is defined in narrow legal terms as a defendant having the ability to understand the charges against him or her and the ability to assist legal counsel with his or her defense.

Helen Garland

State Assistant Attorney Will Delker said the state filed the motion to postpone the hearing until June. Garland was recently prescribed by a neurologist the cognitive-enhancing medication Nomenda to see if it will restore her competency. Delker said the drug's effects will not be seen for at least six months.

"We want to wait and see if it will have an effect," said Delker. "It wouldn't be appropriate to have the hearing until then."

After Garland was ruled unfit for trial, prosecutors argued that Garland be re-evaluated to see if there is any improvement. The judge agreed by saying her competency may be restored with proper medical treatment and set the hearing for Dec. 21.

At the first competency hearing on Aug. 31, Dr. Albert Druktenis, who holds degrees in psychology and law and conducted the 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 and 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 Garland can't interact with her attorneys to form a defense and stay with that defense if she took the stand.

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.