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Accused killer found fit for trial

Adrien Graham Wallace is mentally competent, judge rules


Adrien Graham Wallace, accused of shooting and killing two family members outside a Lake Oswego-area home last year, is mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Sept. 18.Wallace

Wallace, 42, faces charges of aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of his mother, Saundra Sue Wallace, 71, and his nephew, Nicolas Brian Juarez, 16, who was visiting in Lake Oswego from Mountain View, Calif. The incident took place the evening of June 4, 2012, in the driveway of a house on Indian Springs Circle, where Adrien Wallace lived with his mother. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

After a two-day hearing, Clackamas County Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Jones said regardless of how Wallace acted in the past, he now appears willing to cooperate with his attorneys.

“We have recent information he’s not at odds with the lawyers, he has confidence in them, he trusts them — and I think that is significant,” he said.

Wallace, wearing a gray- and white-striped jail uniform and accompanied by one sheriff’s deputy, was present in the courtroom during the hearing but didn’t speak. He was allowed to have one hand freed from handcuffs so he could communicate in writing with his attorneys. He frowned as Jones described his decision.

Jones said even if Wallace was unhappy with his lawyers or having trouble working with them, he didn’t think mental illness was the reason.

The decision turned in part on the difference between chronic paranoia related to a personality disorder and delusions or hallucinations more characteristic of paranoid schizophrenia.

Wallace’s attorneys argued that he stopped cooperating near the end of an interview with Dr. Richard Hulteng, a psychologist hired by prosecutors, who reportedly surprised him with questions about written material on his computer. Wallace was apparently unaware thousands of pages of those documents, containing stories with titles such as “Weird Moon Story,” “Zombie Story,” “The Old Story” and “Until the End of the World,” had been obtained by both sides and could possibly become evidence in the case.

Attorneys David Falls and Laurie Bender are representing Wallace. Falls said their client has since suggested that his defense team is conspiring with prosecutors and working as an “agent of the state” by facilitating access to those documents.

“Yes, he has a high IQ, but it is difficult for him to rationally understand how evidence is going to be used in his case,” Falls said. “He has no trust left with one of the attorneys in this case.”

“He cannot, will not, cooperate and assist in preparing this case because of this delusional belief that has developed as a result of this information coming into the hands of the prosecution,” Falls added. “I have hopes that with adequate treatment that Mr. Wallace will once again be able to work with Ms. Bender and he will no longer see me as a hamfisted attorney.”

Prosecutor Chris Owen of the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office, however, said sending Wallace back to the state hospital is “just delaying the inevitable.”

Earlier this month Wallace was sent on a court order to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, where he was evaluated by Dr. Karl Mobbs, a psychiatrist who specializes in forensic evaluations, who found him able to aid and assist attorneys preparing his case for trial.

No one contends Wallace is “the picture of mental health,” Owen said, or that he is “a perfect client or easy client to deal with for Mr. Falls and Ms. Bender — because he is not.”

Instead, Owen argued, Wallace “picks and chooses” when to cooperate.

“When something pops up that makes him feel paranoid, he attacks verbally and he manipulates,” Owen said. “He throws a tantrum like a child. Then, there’s got to be a little bit of a new approach developed in the situation, and then he continues down this course.”

According to testimony from multiple doctors, Wallace believes he was being tricked into providing information he didn’t want to. But mental health experts offered conflicting opinions about his attitude toward his attorneys.

Mobbs said he reviewed various records dating back to 1992, hospital records from Wallace’s stay at the state hospital and recent evaluations and comments from mental health care providers. He also conducted a three-hour-long face-to-face interview.

Wallace showed no signs of psychotic behavior during his time at the state hospital, where he read the newspaper and mostly “kept to himself,” Mobbs said. He reportedly told doctors there he felt he had “the best lawyers I could hope for” and would request to speak with Falls when he wanted legal advice.

“There is substantial information that, at the time (of the evaluation), he was able to work with you guys, and he was working with you guys,” Mobbs told Falls and Bender. “He said he did not trust lawyers in general, but this is not an uncommonly held belief in society.”

While Wallace cut short his interview with Hulteng in June, Hulteng said testimony from other doctors reinforced his previous opinion that Wallace is mentally fit for trial.

“He was guarded, sarcastic and at times evasive, but he generally went along with the program,” Hulteng said. “The fact he got through two more evaluations and more or less worked with counsel during those evaluations strengthens my impression he is able to aid and assist.”

But while Mobbs and Hulteng concluded Wallace was mentally competent, Dr. Henry Miller, a psychologist hired by the defense, had a different view.

After spending more than 11 hours testing, interviewing and evaluating him, Miller said Wallace appears to have built “rigid defenses against a psychosis.” He said Wallace apparently was able to “maintain himself” for a long time by isolating himself socially and throwing himself into his work as a mechanic. However, over the past five years, Wallace was unemployed and unsuccessful when applying for jobs.

“He can maintain himself in certain situations,” Miller said. “If you push him too hard, he’ll fall apart.”

He said Wallace believes his attorneys are “sabotaging things and ... just using him as a cash cow.”

“He won’t cooperate,” Miller said. “If you ask him questions that are intrusive to him, he is going to react angrily and reject your requests.”

When announcing his decision, Jones said he was most concerned with results of the latest evaluation, by Mobbs, and noted that Mobbs was an independent evaluator; he did not represent either side in the case.

Jones highlighted Wallace’s medical history, which he said shows a longstanding pattern of paranoia, and said testimony from doctors indicated Wallace has the ability to discuss and question that paranoia, suggesting his beliefs aren’t fixed delusions.

That Wallace thought he was being “tricked” into revealing information didn’t so much represent a break from reality as it did a paranoid interpretation of what was happening, Jones added, noting that Wallace has long held the view that others are against him: “The evidence in this case shows this has been a part of Mr. Wallace’s life for a long, long time.”

“Although Mr. Wallace has a mental illness, it doesn’t rise to the level of a mental disease or defect but instead is a personality disorder with paranoid features,” Jones said. “As a result, he is able to aid and assist.”

Jones could readdress the issue if defense attorneys feel their problems persist, and he noted that experts will continue to assess Wallace’s mental health to ensure he is mentally competent if his case goes to trial, expected this fall.

“This decision is based on the information that I have as of now.” If something changes, Jones said, “There may need to be an additional determination as to his ongoing ability to aid and assist.”

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