Clatsop County Circuit Court Judge Cindee Matyas gave the District Attorney’s Office the go-ahead for a mental health evaluation with alleged killer Jessica Smith on Friday, Oct. 2.
Smith, 41, of Goldendale, Washington, appeared in court shackled and in a blue jumpsuit. She is accused of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder for allegedly drugging and murdering her daughter, Isabella Smith, 2, and attempting to kill her older daughter, Alana Smith, 13, in a Cannon Beach hotel in July 2014.
Smith’s attorney William Falls and his co-counsel plan to use a diminished capacity defense, and on Aug. 28, opposed the state’s chosen evaluator, Dr. Paul Guastadisegni, because Falls claimed the Portland-based psychologist lacked the proper credentials to do such an examination under new state standards.
“Frankly, this is sandbagging,” District Attorney Josh Marquis said.
He said he sent Guastadisegni’s background to Falls and co-counsel Lynne Morgan in July, six weeks before the status hearing in August. Falls didn’t oppose the proposed evaluator until the morning of that court date.
In response, Marquis said the state took extra steps as a precaution, ensuring Guastadisegni has been temporarily and conditionally certified to do the evaluation.
“The state is entitled to its examination,” Matyas told Falls, adding she believes Guastadisegni is appropriate.
She ordered the state evaluation for Oct. 13 and 14, as previously set.
Falls countered he’d rather wait until Morgan is available, prompting Matyas to ask why he had agreed to the date in the first place, if Guastadisegni ended up certified for the job.
Falls said he plans to file notice of when Morgan is available, adding it is Smith’s constitutional right to have all counsel present during such an evaluation.
Matyas noted the dates could change if there was mutual agreement between the defense and prosecution.
“These are time-consuming evaluations,” she said. “The exchange of information is critical for both sides.”
She also granted Falls permission to record the evaluation after discussion, as long as an unedited copy is made for the District Attorney’s Office.
Marquis expressed concern that Smith could refuse to answer the evaluator’s questions, citing her right to avoid self-incrimination.
If Falls objects to questions about Smith’s marriage or her upbringing, he added, then there’s no point in doing an evaluation.
“This is not an elaborate chess game,” Marquis said. “We’re trying to expedite discovery in a complicated case.”
Matyas said she is not going to “micromanage” the evaluation. She said there are parameters in state law that guide such interviews.
The District Attorney’s office filed a motion to compel discovery on Oct. 1. Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard said the defense failed to share information from defense-hired psychologist Dr. Beth Howell, who has visited Smith in jail half a dozen times since July, according to jail records.
Falls objected and called the information irrelevant as the defense has not filed her as an expert witness. He added that the state cannot force the defense to “file evidence of a particular nature” until he receives a report and decides to use it.
Marquis again sought to speed up the trial. “This case is going slower than the state and, I think, court want,” Marquis said.
He compared the defense’s current legal tactics with those Falls used when defending Adrien Wallace in 2014. In that case, the state didn’t receive discovery until the trial began.
Wallace, of Lake Oswego, was convicted of murdering his 71-year-old mother and teenage nephew in 2012 and sentenced to life in jail, according to court records.
If Howell is going to be put on the stand, Marquis said, he wants the psychologist’s discovery material before the trial begins.
Matyas said she would consider the request, but would provide Falls a chance to respond first. “Today, I don’t believe, would be the day,” she said.
The trial is set for June 2016.