Psychologists evaluating the man accused of gunning down 10 people at a Colorado grocery store earlier this year found that he’s not competent to stand trial, court documents revealed.
But Boulder County prosecutors asked for, and were granted, a second court-ordered evaluation after psychologists found that suspect Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa “is currently ‘not competent to proceed’ forward in this case,” according to a filing by Chief Trial Deputy DA Adam Kendall.
Prosecutors argued that they’re entitled to another exam and that Alissa has shown “an understanding of his charges, the potential sentence, the roles of the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney,” according to Kendall.
Boulder Chief Judge Ingrid Seftar Bakke on Thursday granted the second evaluation, over the objections of Alissa’s defense team, which called the DA’s request “a single-minded tactic of trying an obviously incompetent defendant.”
“As the prosecution’s request for a second evaluation and its addendum show, it has no basis in fact or in law to believe Mr. Alissa is presently competent to proceed,” Chief Trial Deputy State Public Defender Daniel King wrote.
A lawyer for Alissa could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.
Alissa surrendered to police following the attack that left 10 dead, including Eric Talley, a Boulder police officer who was the first to arrive on scene.
The others killed that day were Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Teri Leiker, 51; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.
University of Colorado law professor Aya Gruber said she wasn’t surprised by Judge Bakke’s ruling for another evaluation because Alissa’s competency is the only real issue at hand.
“Competency doesn’t come up every day. But where it does, and especially in a case like this, it absolutely will be challenged,” Gruber told NBC News on Monday. “The competency determination will be appealed, it’ll be reevaluated.”
Gruber, a former federal public defender, added: “There will be many bites at this apple until he’s ruled competent to stand trial.”
Colorado has been home to two of the most notable, recent cases of defendant competency.
Holmes was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing moviegoers who had gathered for a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
However, Robert Lewis Dear Jr., who acknowledges killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic on Nov. 27, 2015, has been found mentally incompetent and remains in custody.