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Two Evaluations: He Can't Aid Defense Competency Hearing May Delay King Trial - Mar 20, 1990 - Omaha World-Herald

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Mar 20, 1990 Two Evaluations: He Can't Aid Defense Competency Hearing May Delay King Trial; [Metro Edition] David Thompson. Omaha World - Herald. Omaha, Neb. pg. 1

Full Text (1410 words)
(Copyright 1990 Omaha World-Herald Company)

The trial of Lawrence E. King Jr. on 40 felony charges may be delayed by mental competency proceedings in federal court.

King, treasurer-manager of the failed Franklin Community Federal Credit Union, faces a court hearing, possibly later this month, to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.

He was indicted last May on charges of conspiracy, fraud and federal income tax evasion after the disappearance of $39 million from the Franklin treasury.

The competency hearing was ordered Monday after a federal magistrate said two psychiatric evaluations found that although King understands the charges against him, he is incapable of cooperating with his defense attorneys in preparing for the trial.

Adversaries Agree

The hearing was called under provisions of a federal law governing proceedings to determine mental competency.

The law says that if the defendant is found competent, the trial goes ahead.

If he is found incompetent, he must be hospitalized until "his mental condition is so improved that the trial may proceed."

King will be held in custody until a competency hearing can be held, probably later this month. He reportedly is being held at Immanuel Medical Center.

The competency matter has placed two adversaries - King's court-appointed defense attorneys and the federal prosecutor - on the same side of the issue, with King and another attorney named to look after his personal views on the other side.

One of the evaluations of King was done earlier this year at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan. The other followed at the U.S. Medical Facility at Springfield, Mo.

King suffers from a "probable delusional paranoid disorder of a grandiose type" in the opinion of Dr. Dorsey W. Dysart, chief of psychiatry at the Springfield facility, said U.S. Magistrate Richard Kopf, who will preside over the hearing.

Dr. Herbert C. Modlin, head of Menninger's department of law and psychiatry, opined that "Mr. King is not capable of cooperating with (his) counsel," Kopf said.

'Functioning Unimpaired'

The magistrate did not give details of the Menninger report because it was done at the request of King's two court-appointed attorneys in the preparation of their defense of King, and they asked that it not be revealed to the prosecution.

Dr. Frank Menolascino, chairman of the combined psychiatry departments of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University, said in an interview that apart from delusions about certain subjects, a person suffering from delusional paranoid disorder of a grandiose type does not exhibit bizarre or odd behavior.

The disorder rarely impairs a person's daily functioning, he said.

The person commonly has an inflated sense of worth, power, knowledge or feeling of a special relationship to a deity or special person, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Third Revised Edition, Dr. Menolascino said.

Hearing and seeing hallucinations are not prominent, he said.

The condition usually begins between ages 40 and 55, according to the manual, he said.

'Relatively Uncommon'

Severe stresses may bring about a delusional disorder, which is "relatively uncommon," about three cases in every 10,000 people, the manual said.

The length of the disorder varies from case to case, the manual said. In some cases there may be remission followed by relapses, and in other cases the disorder disappears "within a few months, often without subsequent relapse," the manual said.

The condition can be treated with therapy and certain medications, according to the book "Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders" of the American Psychiatric Association.

During a hearing Monday before the magistrate, King's court-appointed defense attorneys, Steven Achelpohl and Marilyn Abbott, and the federal prosecutor, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Thalken, said they would agree with Dr. Dysart's report.

But Alan G. Stoler, an attorney appointed by the magistrate as standby counsel to represent King's "expressed interest," contested the report and said he wants a third, independent evaluation of King.

Stoler said such an examination could take three to four weeks. He said he has a psychiatrist in mind to undertake the evaluation, but he did not name the doctor.

Kopf said he will rule soon on Stoler's request.

End of Month

The earliest a competency hearing could be held is March 29 or 30 because of the schedule of one of the psychiatrists, the magistrate said. It would be later if a third evaluation were allowed.

Kopf said both psychiatrists probably will be called as witnesses along with a Menninger's psychologist, Dr. Glenn S. Lipsom. Lipsom did psychological tests on King while he was at Menninger, and the results of those tests were sent to Dr. Dysart, Kopf said.

The magistrate said he also may ask questions of Achelpohl and Ms. Abbott, although they will not be called as witnesses in the competency hearing.

King attended the hearing along with the three attorneys representing his various interests, another attorney representing King's wife, Alice, and prosecutor Thalken.

King, wearing a double-breasted gray suit, white shirt and yellow paisley necktie, spoke only once during the 37-minute hearing. That was to answer Kopf's question about whether he understood that Stoler was representing his expressed interest in the competency issue.

King said he did not quite understand and asked Kopf to repeat the statement. He nodded his head after Kopf explained again.

Evaluation Ordered

The magistrate spent part of the hearing summarizing events that led to the session and the question of whether King is competent to stand trial.

He said Achelpohl and Ms. Abbott brought him a letter from Dr. Modlin Feb. 7 which said King was unable to assist his attorneys. Kopf said he decided at that point that an independent evaluation should be conducted at Springfield.

He said he asked Donald Ranheim, pretrial services officer of the U.S. Probation Office, to see whether King wanted a court hearing over the evaluation.

"Mr. King told Mr. Ranheim that he did not want any formal hearing, but he was not completely in agreement with the idea of an examination," the magistrate said.

Kopf conferred with King's attorneys and the prosecutor the same day, then signed an order sending King to Springfield.

Kopf said it was the letter from Dr. Modlin that triggered his decision to order the second evaluation. He said the contents of the Modlin report were not disclosed to the prosecution.

The magistrate said that after he received the report from Dr. Dysart in Springfield he asked that the psychological test results from Menninger's be sent to Springfield.

Opinion Unchanged

Last Wednesday, the day after the results were transmitted, Kopf held a 75-minute telephone conference with Dr. Dysart, Achelpohl, Ms. Abbott, Thalken and U.S. Attorney Ron Lahners. The proceedings were recorded by a court reporter.

Kopf said Dr. Dysart stated that the psychological test results did not change his opinion about King's condition.

Federal law requires a formal hearing to determine a person's mental competency to stand trial.

A person suffering from a mental disease or defect that impairs him "to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense" may be adjudged incompetent to stand trial, the law says.

The finding must be by a "preponderance of evidence," the law says.

If the defendant is found incompetent, the judge is required to turn the defendant over to the Justice Department for hospitalization.

The law says the defendant can be held for up to four months to determine whether there is "a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future" he will attain the capacity to allow the trial to proceed.

Then the Justice Department can hold him "for an additional reasonable time" until his condition improves to the point he can stand trial, the law says.

Can Be Reviewed

The magistrate will conduct the competency hearing as part of the pretrial proceedings. Any finding by the magistrate can be reviewed by the district court judge assigned to try the case.

The case of King and his wife has been assigned to U.S. District Judge William Cambridge. The trial date has been set for June 4, although the competency proceedings could cause delays.

During the hearing Monday, attorney Michael Smith said he was concerned about Mrs. King's interest in the case and her right to a speedy trial.

The current proceedings dealing with King's mental competency have stopped the clock for a speedy trial for both Kings, because they are to be tried together.

King is led to Monday's hearing...by David Dimmitt, left, and Gordon McDevitt, both U.S. deputy marshals.

[Illustration]
Rudy Smith/World-Herald

Credit: World-Herald Staff Writer

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