Man ruled not competent to stand trial in rape

October 17, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,SUN REPORTER

Prosecutors say he is guilty of a horrific crime that could send him to prison for life: raping a 62-year-old woman on the floor of a coin-operated laundry, then stealing $6 from her purse.

But Anne Arundel County Judge Paul A. Hackner found Christopher Parr, 27, of Baltimore not competent to stand trial yesterday on charges of first-degree rape - or of assaulting jail employees on two occasions - in a case that illustrated the difficulties of prosecuting mentally ill criminal defendants.

Parr, who poses "a danger to himself or others," according to a recent court-ordered psychiatric report, is being held at the maximum-security Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put this guy at 15," said Roland Walker, the Baltimore attorney representing Parr. "He's very, very disturbed. I'd be surprised if he recovered to the point that he could have a trial."

Walker has filed a plea of "not criminally responsible" - which is akin to an insanity plea - a defense he will pursue, if Parr is ruled competent to stand trial.

"When you talk about someone who's incompetent to stand trial, they don't have the ability to contribute to their defense," said Arnett Gaston, a criminology professor at the University of Maryland and a clinical psychologist who has worked in the New York prison system. "In order for a person to get a fair trial, they have to have the capacity to contribute to their own defense."

Anne Arundel Deputy State's Attorney Laura S. Kiessling, who is prosecuting Parr, said instances of criminal defendants being declared not competent to stand trial occur "very infrequently."

"If there comes a time when he is competent to stand trial, we will try the case," Kiessling said. "We look at it from the perspective of getting justice for the victim and making society safe, and we would like to be able to do that as soon as possible, certainly while working within the parameters of the law."

According to court documents, Parr, of the 4000 block of Barrington Road in the city's Gwynn Oak neighborhood, followed a woman into the Village Laundromat in the 700 block of Church St. in Brooklyn Park about 10 p.m. July 19, 2006. He choked her, threw her to the ground, and repeatedly struck her head against the floor before raping her, the documents said.

After the attack, he stole her cash and another $90 from the laundry and drove away in the victim's 2005 Pontiac Vibe. The Sun does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

Authorities publicized a photograph of the attacker, which was captured by a security camera at a convenience store near the laundry. Three witnesses identified Parr as the man in the video, and his fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime, according to court documents.

Parr, who was in court yesterday, did not make any statement.

While at Perkins, the state's primary hospital for treating mentally ill people accused of violent crimes, Parr threw a bucket at one correctional officer in December, and in April threw feces at another, according to the statement of charges.

Susan Steinberg, deputy director of the state's Mental Hygiene Administration, which oversees the state's 10 psychiatric hospitals, said "the overwhelming majority" of patients who are ruled incompetent to stand trial eventually become competent.

"We'll routinely re-evaluate him," Steinberg said. "He'll be monitored by his treatment team, and anytime his treatment team believes there's been a change, he'll be re-evaluated. At a minimum, he'll be evaluated twice a year."

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