West Seattle Crime Watch: Stabbing suspect found ‘competent’

We’re checking on several West Seattle cases with court hearings today. First one happened this morning, involving Marcus Allen Combs, the man charged with stabbing a woman in what investigators called a random attack in High Point on April 23rd. After he was charged, as reported here in May, he was sent to Western State Hospital for a three-month evaluation to see if he was competent to stand trial, and a hearing was set for today to make the determination. King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office spokesperson Dan Donohoe tells WSB today’s hearing resulted in a ruling that Combs IS competent to stand trial, so Combs will be back in court Sept. 27 for “case-setting,” – the hearing that determines what happens next in the case and when.

4 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch: Stabbing suspect found 'competent'"

  • Baba August 30, 2010 (4:35 pm)

    If I remember it correctly the victim was stabbed 15 times with some sort of “souvenir nail clipping set knife”…
    1. How does that make the suspect “competent”?
    2. How did the victim survive and was out from the hospital the next day if it was indeed the real knife…..( after being stabbed 15 times…!!!)???

    • WSB August 30, 2010 (5:05 pm)

      Baba – “competent to stand trial” has nothing to do with the circumstances of the crime as per #1, it has to do with whether they are sane enough to understand, answer, and try to defend themselves against the charges against them. The evaluators and judge determine that, as per what happened this morning. As for #2, I don’t have a medical report on the victim and never well. Stab wounds can be anywhere from a puncture to a graze to inches deep.

  • Baba August 30, 2010 (5:07 pm)

    We certainly need @waterworld to sort this one out… Thanks.

  • waterworld August 30, 2010 (7:13 pm)

    Baba: WSB is correct — competency to stand trial is unrelated to the underlying criminal charge. Under Washington law (and, I think, the law of every other state) a person who is not “competent” to stand trial cannot be tried and convicted. RCW 10.77.050 says “No incompetent person shall be tried, convicted, or sentenced for the commission of an offense so long as such incapacity continues.” A person will be found “incompetent” under this statute if he or she cannot understand the charges and the trial process, and cannot assist his or her lawyer. The underlying cause of the incompetence could be mental illness, dementia, cognitive disability or mental retardation, or other things — it is not limited to insanity.

    This competency issue is different from a legal defense of insanity. So a person could be insane at the time of the crime, yet found competent to stand trial when he’s charged (this is relatively common). Conversely, a person could be legally sane when he committed the crime, and yet be found incompetent later on when he is charged.

    Further, if the reason for being found incompetent to stand trial is mental illness or some other thing that is theoretically fixable, the state can ask the court to commit the person to Western State for purposes of restoring competency. There was a case a few years ago involving a guy who got the death penalty (I think it was in Arkansas) and was later found to be insane, which prevented the state from executing him. So Arkansas state spent a bunch of money restoring the man’s sanity so they could kill him.

Sorry, comment time is over.