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Hay competent to stand trial – Part 1

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The father of Nathan Frederick Hay proved prescient in an Oct. 9, 2014, telephone call with his son from the Bandera County Jail. When apprised that his son’s defense strategy included filing a motion for incompetency in order to avoid criminal trials for myriad felony charges, the elder Hay noted: “That’s (silly). This is Bandera County. We don’t do that s**t.”
As it turned out, the elder Hay was correct. After a three-day competency trial in the 198th District Court, a jury took only 15 minutes to find Hay competent to stand trial.
Competency at stake
The proceedings that began with jury selection on Tuesday, Jan. 16, included dueling forensic psychologists; testimony from city and county law enforcement officers and a family practice physician; video and audio tapes of Hay’s original traffic stop on March 24, 2014; an aborted – but videotaped – interview with investigators with the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office; and, the pièce de résistance, a protracted series of jail house phone calls which proved – with a nod to comedian Ron White – that, while Hay had the right to remain silent, he seemed to lack the capacity.
In his opening statement, court-appointed defense attorney Anton “Tony” Hackebeil of Hondo noted that his client’s mental problems had begun long before his client had been charged with manufacture and distribution of drugs and continual sexual abuse of a child.
“This was not just something he decided to claim in order to not be held responsible,” Hackebeil said. “A series of evaluations were done and we’re here because of a difference in opinions.”
According to Hackebeil, state statutes require that a defendant must have “a rational and functional grasp of the proceedings as well as an understanding of the nature and existence of the charges against him.” He felt his client lacked that mandated grasp of the proceedings.
‘Knows what’s
going on’
Representing the State of Texas, Assistant District Attorney Stephen Harpold took the jury through Hay’s initial arrest, noting that, in his opinion, audio and videotapes would prove the defendant “knows exactly what is going on.” From Hay’s arrest in March 2014 on drug charges to his second arrest that October for continual sexual abuse of a child, “the issue of competency never came up,” Harpold said.
“After those charges were filed and his bond increased, Mr. Hay brought up the idea of incompetency to his father,” Harpold said. “However, after you hear the evidence and tape recordings, you will never have doubt that Mr. Hay understands what’s going on and laughs about it.”
As his first witness, Hackebeil called Dr. Christine Beauchamp, a family practice physician from Boerne, who treated Hay from June 2009 to April 2013. She described recurring problems that included depression and anxiety, as well as struggles with alcohol for which Beauchamp referred Hay to a psychiatrist. His symptoms included spiking blood pressure, increased heart rate and leg abscesses.
‘Not happy person’
Beauchamp described Hay as a “loud, boisterous, profane and ultimately non-compliant patient who would get sidelined from his original complaint.” At other times, Hay would appear depressed. She added, “He was not a happy person.”
In his short cross-examination, Harpold established that Hay’s symptoms could have been a manifestation of his addiction to methamphetamine.
On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Hackebeil called to the stand Jack G. Ferrell Jr., PhD, of Southwest Forensic Consultations and Psychological Associates, LLC, of San Antonio, who had been appointed by the court to determine if Hay were competent to stand trial. Ferrell has been in practice 45 years.
To evaluate Hay for competency, Ferrell told the court he used collateral resources, including police and incarceration reports, data relating to the offenses, life history, school and medical records and significant handwritten material, as well as psychological testing. “If Nathan is found not competent to stand trial, he will be placed in a state mental facility with a structured program and therapy regimen that would allow him to regain his competency at a subsequent time,” Ferrell said.
Hay’s diary, Ferrell said, consisted of different writing styles, handwritings and signatures; inks; and “different perspectives within him,” which “gave the burden of responsibility to another part of him so (Hay) doesn’t have to deal with it 24 hours a day.”
Ferrell for defense
Ferrell also spoke about Hay’s “alters” that would handle conflicts by “putting on their Sunday best and creating a firewall that would block out the sunlight of reality.” It was unclear whether this was Ferrell’s rendered professional assessment or whether it had been gleaned from Hay’s descriptive writings.
Other responses from Hay to the question “What were you doing that caused you to be arrested?” that Ferrell considered significant included:
• “I don’t know. I only know what I’ve been told.”
• “Sleeping” – which, in fact, was allegedly true
• “I wasn’t there.”
When Hackebeil asked about his client’s ability to understand the proceedings and to assist with his defense, Ferrell said, “Nathan has significant psychological problems, schizophrenia and paranoia that would affect his ability to assist his lawyer.” As a consequence, Ferrell recommended placing Hay long term in a “structured safe environment where he could depend on himself and not on alter-egos (in order that he) may gain competency.”
However, to Hackebeil's question: “Is he competent?” Ferrell appeared to equivocate to such an extent that this writer failed to understand the answer. Eventually Ferrell noted, “The court ultimately decides (if Hay is competent).”
(The Thursday, March 3, edition of the Courier, will report on Dr. Ferrell’s cross examination, among other aspects of the three-day competency trial of Nathan Hay.)