SPOKANE — The Washington Court of Appeals, Division 3, has rejected the appeal of a Quincy man who argued his attorney and the trial court failed to question whether or not he was competent to stand trial.
Ricardo Gonzalez Garcia was convicted of attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle following a Jan. 29, 2017 arrest. During the incident in question a Washington State Patrol trooper was traveling east on Interstate 90 when he spotted a vehicle traveling west on I-90 at a high speed.
The trooper attempted to pull over the vehicle but the driver, Gonzalez Garcia, refused to stop and continued traveling at speeds in excess of 125 mph. Gonzalez Garcia left the freeway near George, sped through a stop sign and started heading north on state Route 281.
Despite efforts by the trooper and a Warden officer who joined the pursuit, Gonzalez Garcia still refused to pull over and continued traveling for a little over a half a mile. He eventually stopped in a cattle feedlot and was taken into custody. Gonzalez Garcia was subsequently charged with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, but at his arraignment he did not answer questions from his attorney or the court.
Shortly after the arraignment Gonzalez Garcia sent a series of letters to the court in Spanish, as he doesn’t speak or read English. The state challenged the accuracy of the translations of the letters, in which Gonzalez Garcia made a number of different rambling statements and declarations about his case, family and personal property. Gonzalez Garcia’s case continued and he was convicted by a jury in May 2017. Gonzalez Garcia appealed the conviction by contending his attorney and the court “should have” questioned whether or not he was competent to stand trial.
“Criminal defendants who lack the capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against them, to consult with counsel, and to assist in preparing their defense may not be subjected to trial,” wrote Judge George Fearing.
Per Washington law, competency hearings are required when a defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, or there is a reason to doubt their competency. Judges are able to take into consideration a person’s appearance, demeanor, conduct, personal and family history, past behavior and medical/psychiatric background in determining if a competency hearing is needed.
“The appellate record lacks evidence, other than comments in some letters, of Ricardo Gonzalez Garcia being incompetent. The record lacks any mention of Gonzalez Garcia’s personal and family history, past behavior, behavior and appearance in court, and medical and psychiatric reports,” Fearing states.
With regard to Gonzalez Garcia arguing his letters would lead a “reasonable attorney to question Gonzalez Garcia’s competency,” Fearing writes it is not known how much Gonzalez Garcia’s attorney questioned his client’s ability to aid in “the defense of the prosecution.” Court records do not document communication taking place between Gonzalez Garcia and his attorney.
“Ricardo Gonzalez Garcia also complains of the trial court’s failure to address Gonzalez Garcia’s competency. Nevertheless, the record does not show whether the trial court judge read or knew about Ricardo Gonzalez Garcia's letters. Therefore, the trial court record fails to support that the trial court should have ordered a competency hearing under (Washington law).”