UPDATE: Angelo Vidal Mendoza Sr.
MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY BIT OUT SON’S EYE IS DECLARED MENTALLY INCOMPETENT
by Steve E. Swenson, The Bakersfield Californian
Angelo Mendoza Sr., accused of biting out his son’s eye, is not competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
That means the 34-year-old defendant will likely go to a state hospital until he becomes competent or he has further hearings on whether he can be kept in custody.
He is charged with mayhem and torture in an April 28 attack on his 4-year-old son, Angelo Mendoza Jr. The boy was blinded in both eyes, but regained sight in his right eye within a few weeks. He has been staying in a foster home, although his mother and two of the senior Mendoza’s brothers are seeking custody. He is reportedly doing well.
The finding by Judge Michael Bush came after a psychologist found in July that Mendoza was not competent. Later a psychiatrist made the same finding. A hearing was set Sept. 22 on where to place Mendoza.
He can be sent to a state hospital, typically Patton State Hospital, for up to three years. The hospital staff treats patients in an effort to restore competency.
If that doesn’t happen, then Mendoza would have annual court hearings on his status, that could result in confining him for the rest of his life.
He could also be released if a judge rules he is not a substantial danger to others.
A finding of mental incompetency means Mendoza cannot understand the nature of the charges against him and he cannot help in his defense. It is different than being declared insane at the time of the offense.
The doctors reports are confidential and the attorneys on the case are under court order not to comment.
But Deputy Public Defender Richard Terry has said in court that Mendoza was unable to communicate with him in June, possibly due to problems with his medication. He takes medication for paralysis — a condition he’s had for several years after he was stabbed in a robbery attempt — and to control seizures.
On June 16, Mendoza appeared lucid in court and answered questions from a judge in a strong voice. But a week later, Terry told a judge that Mendoza wasn’t able to talk at all.
Because of the medication issue, Prosecutor John Lua wanted Mendoza to be examined by a psychiatrist who is also trained as a medical doctor.
Dr. Luis Velosa, a psychiatrist, was appointed in July and it was his report that was reviewed Tuesday. The earlier report was from Carol Hendrix, a psychologist.
Bakersfield police have reported that Mendoza told officers he had stopped taking his prescription medication before the attack on his son. He told police he felt anxious and was seeing things that weren’t there.
After the attack, Mendoza rolled his wheelchair to a backyard of a vacant home and cut his own legs with an ax and a broken ceramic plate.
I need to make something very clear here. When this story broke, police first believed that Mendoza was under the influence of PCP during the attack, but subsequent reports say no PCP was found in the home. His neighbors also had no trouble telling anyone who would listen that Angelo Sr. acted like a man under the influence of angel dust.
We can now see that illicit drugs had nothing to do with Angelo Mendoza Senior’s attack on his son, Angelo Mendoza Jr. Instead, he was in the throws of withdrawal from his prescribed medication used to treat his paralysis and the seizures he suffered from.
Also, Mendoza was almost declared incompetent to stand trial at an earlier hearing. I found an article on this earlier hearing, on July 22nd, 2009, which may more clearly explain why he is unfit for trial. Here are some excerpts:
Mendoza has been examined by Dr. Carol Hendrix, a psychologist, who found that Mendoza is not competent to stand trial unless he regularly gets medication to control seizures and paralysis problems, defense attorney Richard Terry said.
Terry noted that without his medication, Mendoza can have side effects as serious as death. He alluded to problems Mendoza may be having with the jail on whether he’s being taken to his doctor’s office to get medication as often as he needs.
That prompted Judge Jerold Turner to say, “The sheriff’s office has been put on notice. If something happens the county is on the hook. He needs to be transported to obtain his medication.”
The judge also said that unless another opinion was issued, he would have to find that Mendoza was not mentally competent to stand trial.
Medication will be an important issue in any trial that Mendoza has on mayhem and torture charges in the April 28 biting attack on his son, Angelo Mendoza Jr.
During a June 16 hearing, Mendoza appropriately answered questions froth the judge in a strong voice. But a week later, Mendoza was not brought to court and his attorney said Mendoza was at Kern Medical Center and unable to talk at all.
That’s when Terry asked for Mendoza to be examined to determine if he was competent to stand trial.
It looks like Angelo Mendoza Sr. may not be the monster we all believed him to be (and justifiably so, given the information we had to work with). It’s a relief for me to know that he isn’t as evil as I imagined him to be. All I find myself feeling for the man now is compassion and sadness.
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