A fourth psychological exam has cleared the way for a 98-year-old St. Johns County woman to be moved from the jail to the Florida State Hospital. The fate of Amanda Stevenson had been in question for close to two years since she was arrested in St. Johns County, accused of shooting and killing her nephew during an argument in 2011, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. Stevenson had been found incompetent to stand trial because she suffers from dementia, the newspaper reported. The judge had ordered the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to find a home for Stevenson, but it said Stevenson did not meet the agency’s criteria to be committed. The new test cleared the way for the Department of Children and Families to take custody of her and place her in a mental hospital where she can likely get more help for her illness than she could in jail or prison. This St. Johns County Violent Crimes case was difficult in terms of where to house Stevenson because she should not be kept in jail when she has not been convicted in this St. Johns County Violent Crimes Case. But, she wasn’t cleared either. And prosecutors argued she should not be sent to live at home, even with restriction including house arrest, because she was a danger to society. Prosecutors asked that Stevenson remain jailed until an alternative could be found and she did for nearly a year after Stevenson was found incompetent to stand trial in July 2012. County jails are not meant for people to stay in long-term: they are for people awaiting trail and people sentenced to one year or less on a misdemeanor charge. People convicted of felonies, such as murder, are placed in the state prison system.
Stevenson will now be committed to a state hospital, the common landing place for people deemed unfit for trial. She is not free to leave at any point and will live and receive treatment there. She will be eligible to petition for the murder charge to be dropped in five years, the newspaper reported. This St. Johns County Violent Crimes Case highlights some of the limitations in our criminal justice system when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill. The so-called “insanity” defense can get a bad name and is often thought of as people pretending to be mentally ill as a way to avoid prosecution in a case. But, in our criminal justice system, everyone accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial. And, to have that, a person must be able to understand what is going on and be able to make decisions about the case.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Johns County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.