An 11-year-old boy accused of fatally stabbing a 12-year-old friend in the driveway of the younger boy's East County home is mentally incompetent to stand trial and will be sent to a residential treatment facility, a judge ruled Tuesday.
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Juvenile Court Judge Cynthia Bashant made the ruling after reviewing reports from two doctors, who concluded the 11-year-old couldn't understand the court proceedings and couldn't assist his attorney at trial.
The boy waived his right to be present in the courtroom and did not attend Tuesday's hearing.
The then-10-year-old was charged with murder and assault in the Jan. 16 stabbing death of Ryan Carter.
The 10-year-old, Carter and another boy were playing with Nerf toys when the 10-year-old allegedly grabbed a kitchen knife and threatened to hurt the third boy. The victim was stabbed in the chest when he tried to intervene, authorities told Carter's parents.
The judge ruled the 11-year-old was mentally incompetent to stand trial because of developmental disabilities related to fetal-alcohol syndrome and other issues. She suspended criminal proceedings and ordered yearly reviews to determine if the accused can regain his competency through treatment.
Deputy Public Defender Marian Gaston said the boy regrets his actions.
"This was his best friend. He knows that his best friend is gone. He believes that his best friend is in heaven and I think he is as remorseful as you can expect," said Gaston.
Deputy District Attorney Victor Barr said the Juvenile Court controls what happens to the minor until age 21.
"This case is not over, I want that to be very clear," Barr said outside court. " ... it's in a matter of hibernation while the minor works toward becoming competent. Hopefully, with age and with treatment he will be competent, in a year, maybe longer, and we can move forward toward setting a trial and getting accountability in this case and justice for Ryan Carter and his family."
Barr told the judge that the accused was a danger to others and his placement in a secure treatment facility ensures he won't be released back into the community.
The juvenile system looks at the boy's maturity, mental health and developmental problems to determine what happens from this point. Both parties and the judge agreed that the best place for the boy is a residential treatment facility, where he can get medications that can be monitored and adjusted. It's undetermined whether that facility will be in the county or perhaps one out of state.
A hearing is scheduled Sept. 18 to determine a suitable residential treatment facility for the minor.
"There's no way you can look into a crystal ball and determine what he is or isn't going to do in the future," said Jo Pastore from the Primary Public Defender's Office.
Pastore also agreed with the court that the boy should be considered a threat to the community.
The judge said the minor's biological mother used various drugs and alcohol during her pregnancy and ultimately lost parental rights to the child.
"Due to a combination of factors, not simply age, but there's mental illness issues going on and developmental disabilities related to fetal alcohol syndrome," said Barr.
The boy suffered a significant head injury at 26 weeks in foster care and has always been prone to emotional outbursts and has displayed maturity below children his own age, the judge said.
Gaston said the minor's adoptive mother is in agreement with the decision to send the boy into treatment.
The boy's mother and the victim's parents did not attend the hearing.
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