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Nicolas Guaman Case: a Question of Competency

A hearing will be scheduled in Worcester Superior Court this month to determine whether Nicolas Dutan Guaman is competent to stand trial for the death of Matthew Denice.

A Worcester Superior Court judge will decide whether Nicolas Dutan Guaman is mentally competent to be tried for the death of Matthew Denice, a motorcyclist who police say was killed after the defendant struck, then dragged him, with a pickup truck.

One medical expert hired by defense attorneys has found Guaman is not competent, and turned in a report describing that finding. Another medical expert, appointed by the court, did not find him incompetent.

Judge James Lemire has ordered a competency hearing, in which experts will testify as to whether Guaman, a 35-year-old laborer, understands the case against him, and meets other criteria for competency. The hearing will be scheduled on Oct. 25.

According to an order from Lemire, the legal threshold is this: "whether he has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding — and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.'

In his order, which allowed the mental evaluations, Lemire wrote that the psychiatrist conducting the evaluations could consider factors including: the defendant's ability to understand the charges against him, his ability to identify and locate witnesses, his ability to comprehend instructions and advice, and to make decisions after receiving advice, and his ability to relate to his defense counsel, to trust and to communicate relevantly with his attorney.

In addition, the doctor could consider: "the defendant's self-defeating or self-serving motivation, whether his motivation is to protect himself and to utilize the available legal safeguards."

The result of those evaluations — and the report by Hanya Bluestone, a Spencer-based psychologist appointed by the court —is now before Lemire. The reports are not public record.

Peter Ettenberg, one of two attorneys representing Guaman, said his reading of the report submitted by Bluestone is that she identifies him as having issues, but it does not find him not competent. The report "doesn't say anything" definitive about his competency, Ettenberg said.

Court records show Spiers was paid $4,000 for his services. His report found Guaman was not competent, according to Ettenberg, who has said his client does not understand the criminal process he faces, and is not communicating with him effectively.

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Guaman is an Ecuadorian citizen who police say has been living illegally in the U.S. for at least seven years. Before his arrest in the Denice case, he was employed as a roofer. Ettenberg has said his client has the equivalent of a second-grade education.

The Worcester County District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case, would not comment on the medical reports or the issue of Guaman's competency. decision-making abilities, including whether he was able to follow directions and handle money effectively.

The threshold to be found "not competent" to stand trial is a high one, according to David Rossman, a professor at Boston University School of Law and director of its Criminal Law Clinical Programs. "It doesn't take very much to be competent," he said, noting that mentally ill people and those with a "distorted" sense of reality are tried routinely in Massachusetts courts.

It would be unusual for a defendant to be found not competent to stand trial, he said, "it's a relatively demanding standard." In cases where the defendant poses a threat, such as a murder case, he said, the defendant would not be released if found not competent to stand trial.

"You would be committed until you are competent," he said.

Milford Senior Man October 19, 2012 at 12:47 PM
He was able to work as a roofer. Competent enough to climb ladders and work on top of buildings. Now, Mr Guaman is accused of killing a man in a horrific way and all of a sudden he's incompetent to stand trial. How convenient.
Tippy Doodle October 19, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Agreed Milford Sr. Man.
Ray Fellows October 19, 2012 at 09:41 PM
He also knew how to put too many beers to his lips, which is why this all happened.
Tippy Doodle October 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM
If he is capable of bending his elbow Ray, then I think he is competent to stand trial.....
Live and In Color October 20, 2012 at 03:41 AM
I would say he should have been drunk in Ecuador, per his multiple deports our wonderful gov't ignored.
Tracey Cunha October 22, 2012 at 05:55 PM
This makes me sick to my stomach.... He has been here for 7 years and most likely drove a majority of the time, works roofing which obviously he has enough sense not to fall off a roof and balance a check book but could be held incompetent to stand trial? REALLY!!! He was driving illegally, with a child in the car, is nto a citizens of the United States and killed someone. He needs to be locked up in the United States for life. My heart goes out to the Denise Family…. I WILL NEVER STEP FOOT IN NEW ENGLAND STEAK AND SEAFOOD. If every other business has to follow the rules of verifying employees, then you should to.
Kathy January 07, 2013 at 09:11 PM
The Competancy Hearing for Nicholas Guaman is scheduled for Worcester District Courthouse, 225 Main Street, Worcester, MA for tomorrow, Jan. 8th, 2013. It will be heard in Superior Court, at 9 a.m., 3rd Floor, Room 18. On street metered parking, or in public (possible fee) lots and garages nearby. Attend, if your schedule permits, to support the family and friends of Matt Denice.
Kathy January 08, 2013 at 03:26 AM
Per "Justice For Matt" The mental competency hearing for Nicolas Guaman is tomorrow 1/8 at 11:00, Worcester Superior Court.

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