Alexander Cote Ferre was tried this week in Tampa for the 2010 death of Danitza Fonseca. Fonseca was hacked to death with a machete. Ferre was charged with second-degree murder.
On Wednesday, after two days of trial, a Hillsborough County Circuit Judge declared a mistrial.
Earlier, Cote Ferre told his defense attorney he was hearing voices. Under Florida law, the judge was then required to immediately get three expert opinions on his competency to stand trial.
Three psychologists examined Cote Ferrer for 30 minutes each. Two found him mentally incompetent to stand trial, telling the court that he suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was “genuinely psychotic”. The third found him competent for trial but incompetent to testify in his own behalf.
Those expert opinions led the judge to declare a mistrial until such time as Cote Ferrer became competent to stand trial.
Prosecutors questioned the decision, citing Cote Ferrer’s prescription for mood stabilizing drug Depakote. They were concerned that he was either faking or that he had skipped his meds.
Today’s determination is different from a finding of insanity. Insanity means a defendant was unable to tell right from wrong at the time of the crime. Incompetency in this situation indicates an inability to understand or assist in your own defense. As soon as competency is regained (per expert opinion), the trial can proceed. This can be achieved through appropriate medication.
The testifying psychologists estimated in court that it would take three to six months in a mental institution to restore Cote Ferrer’s competency.