Delich will be forced to get treatment for mental illness
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The man accused of gunning down a Tucson police officer is not competent to stand trial, a Pima County Superior Court judge has ruled, after hearing testimony from psychiatrists.
David Delich will be sent to the Arizona State Hospital where he will be forced to accept treatment for mental illness.
A ruling by Judge John Leonardo on March 31 states that Delich could be "restored to competency within 15 months" and will be "subject to involuntary treatment," according to state law.
Delich could have received mental health treatment while remaining a criminal suspect in the Pima County Jail, expert testimony convinced the judge that the state's mental hospital in Phoenix is the appropriate setting for treatment.
The state hospital has an established restore to competency program and has other patients who are being restored to competency in other criminal cases.
"Given the concerns expressed in expert testimony about the treatment component within the (Pima County) jail and the expert's belief that the Arizona State Hospital is considered a more therapeutic setting for this defendant's restoration to competency, and given the preference of the parties that the treatment occur within the restoration to competency program at the Arizona State Hospital," Leonardo ordered Delich into the competency program in Phoenix, the ruling stated.
Leonardo found Delich incompetent to stand trial at this time and incompetent to refuse treatment.
Delich is accused of fatally shooting Tucson police officer in the head and wounding two sheriff's deputies during a chase that took law enforcement in and out of Tucson city limits.
The shootings took place on June 28, 2008. Police officer Erik Hite, 43, had two children.
Delich had posted pictures on his MySpace page in which he posed smiling with two rifles against a wall.
Craig interviewed Delich after his arrest:
Craig: Did you think about any potential danger to civilians as you were making that drive?
Delich: Umm....yeah, sure I considered it. I considered it a danger to everybody.
Craig: But you kept firing.
Delich: I don't know. I wasn't thinking clearly. I wasn't thinking rationally."
It's been almost two years since Officer Hite died.
The Tucson Police Officers Association says more delay will be more stress on Officer Hite's family--made even worse if Delich stays in treatment.
Larry Lopez of TPOA says:"We want justice to be served and if this person gets to go to a hospital for however long, that's not justice in our eyes."
Tucson attorney Mike Piccarreta is not defending Delich but he says he knows Delich will not be able to endanger anyone.
"The courts are not in the business of freeing killers and saying, oh, it's too bad you had a mental health problem, you go free."
"This is no walk in the park going to a state psychiatric hospital. You can't intentionally keep yourself incompetent to avoid the repercussions of being competent. There's been situations where they force medication. There's been situations in death penalty cases where they regain competency just to execute the person."
Piccarreta says mental illness could be mitigating factor when it comes to determining a sentence for a criminal suspect like Delich. It may prompt a judge to order a life sentence instead of death.