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Defense Expert Says OSU Homecoming Crash Driver is Mentally Incompetent

06-Nov-2015

When a car careened into a crowd at the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade, there was much speculation about the driver's state at the time of the crash. Was she drunk? Was she high? Did she suffer a medical event? Did she intentionally drive into the crowd?

When Adacia Chambers was arrested on suspicion of DUI, many people thought they had the answer. Obviously, she was drunk. But then police indicated that alcohol was not believed to be a factor, and so speculation turned to drug abuse. 

But then her attorney spoke to Chambers, her family, and those that knew her and discovered that the woman had been hospitalized for mental illness at least three times, that she had a history of mental illness in her family, and that she seemed to be incapable of remembering or understanding the horror she caused--four killed and 46 injured. 

Now, at the request of Chambers attorney, a forensic psychologist has examined the driver in the OSU homecoming crash and concluded that she is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Forensic psychologist Shawn Roberson says after talking with Chambers that he believes she is affected by bipolar I disorder, and as a result, she is incapable of understanding the charges against her or assisting in her own defense. He says that not only is she mentally incompetent to stand trial, but that, if released from jail, she would likely be a danger to herself and to others--an assertion with which most people would agree in light of the incident on October 24.

Roberson describes Chambers's demeanor as swinging wildly from "uncontrollable sobbing to inappropriate, hysterical laughter."He says that while she seemed to understand that she was in jail, she did not know why she was there. As the interview progressed, he says, Chambers's responses became nonsensical.

The psychologist also administered a "Test of Memory Malingering" intended to show whether a subject was faking mental illness, and the test indicated that Chambers was not feigning her bizarre answers or affect.

His letter to Chambers's attorney provides the following answers to court-ordered questions about the defendant's mental competency or lack thereof:

  • Is this person able to appreciate the nature of the charges made against such person? NO.
  • Is this person able to consult with the lawyer and rationally assist in the preparation of the defense of such person? NO.
  • If the person is unable to appreciate the nature of the charges or to consult and rationally assist in the preparation of the defense, whether the person can attain competency within a reasonable period of time . . . if provided with a course of treatment, therapy, or training? YES.
  • Is the person a person requiring treatment . . . ? YES.
  • Is the person incompetent because the person is mentally retarded? NO. 
  • If the person were released, whether such person would presently be dangerous? YES.

Does mental incompetency mean that a defendant will not be punished for a crime? Does it mean that the defendant gets of scot-free?

No. 

Mental incompetency means that a person is not competent to stand trial because he or she does not understand the nature of the charges and cannot reasonably assist in his or her own defense. However, as noted in Roberson's answers to the court, in some cases, a person can attain competency, and at that point, the defendant will face the court.     

Remember, the defendant in this case has an alleged history of mental illness, reportedly having been hospitalized for treatment of her mental illness at least three times in recent years. However, she has been without treatment or medication since she was jailed on October 24. She would likely have a marked decline in her mental state without adequate treatment. It seems likely that if the court agrees with the defense psychologist's assessment and finds Chambers mentally incompetent, she will be ordered to inpatient behavioral health treatment at the Oklahoma Forensic Center in Vinita until competency is restored. If her mental competency is restored, she will face the charges against her, which include four counts of second degree murder and 46 counts of assault and battery by means or force as is likely to cause death.

Mental incompetency is not the same as being found not guilty by reason of insanity. Learn more about the insanity defense here

Letter from psychologist to Adacia Chambers's attorney



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