Judge grants competency, insanity evaluations - reluctantly

Cary Ashby • Jan 21, 2014 at 10:07 PM

Heather M. Hodgkinson agreed with the judge who said she didn't have any confusion" about the allegations and could remember what did or didn't happen.

Shortly after she nodded her head once in agreement, the defendant said she has memory issues.

"It was a long time ago," said Hodgkinson, who has cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, but isn't taking any medication for her mental issues.

Hodgkinson, 32, of 107 E. Main St., Apt. 2, is charged with three counts of trafficking in psilocybin in connection with incidents on Sept. 11, 13 and 17, 2012. Psilocyn is the main ingredient in what's known as "magic mushrooms."

She was in court Friday with her appointed attorney, James Joel Sitterly, for a final pre-trial hearing. Sitterly was appointed in November after Hodgkinson had a disagreement with Huron County Public Defender David Longo.

On Friday, Sitterly asked the court to consider having his client evaluated to determine is she's able to help in her defense and find out if she possibly was insane at the time of the suspected offenses.

Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway agreed to the evaluations, but appeared to do so reluctantly and out of frustration. He spent most of Friday's hearing drilling Hodgkinson and her attorney about why they hadn't been able to meet until Thursday night. Her trial was scheduled to start next Thursday.

"I can't explain why my client didn't come in for that," Sitterly said, referring to their meeting.

While Sitterly didn't give a clear explanation for the delay in meeting with Hodgkinson, he said his client eventually "produced a stack of documents," which indicated a doctor diagnosed her with "active schizophrenia" as of May 21. Conway replied by saying Hodgkinson should have been aware of the diagnosis and brought it to her attorney's attention and added there was nothing stopping her from meeting with Sitterly.

"How is the court supposed to accept this behavior? ... This case has been on my docket since May," Conway told Hodgkinson.

"I was terrified to see another lawyer," said Hodgkinson, who accused Longo, her previous attorney, of saying a jury would want to take her to an alley and shoot her.

"He didn't even want to talk about my case," she said.

"This was my first time out in a month-and-a-half. ... I stayed at home and tried not to kill myself ... because something happened to me around Christmas time," Hodgkinson said.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler first said it's too late for the defendant to request evaluations for her mental competency or enter a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity" since such issues should have been addressed during her arraignment. He also said Hodgkinson said some "bizarre things" to when Longo was representing her.

By the end of Friday's hearing, Leffler told the judge that even though "it appears we are being gassed," maybe the evaluations would be a good idea.

"I don't see much benefit to it, but we will do it," said Conway, who earlier said it was obvious Hodgkinson clearly answered his questions.

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