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Shooter Accused in Ft. Lauderdale Airport Shooting is Competent to Stand Trial

Esteban Santiago is the Alaskan man who is accused of opening fire and killing five and wounding a sixth at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport on January 6 of this year. According to reports, he flew from Anchorage, Alaska to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with a gun in his check baggage. Once he arrived at the airport, he retrieved his bag, loaded his gun in the bathroom, and began shooting in the baggage claim area. Despite a past riddled with mental illness, Santiago's criminal defense attorneys now say that he is mentally competent to stand trial for the accused crime.

Defendant Understands Indictments

The main determinants in whether a defendant is competent to continue with criminal proceedings has to do with his/her understanding of the charges filed against him/her, and he/she is able to assist with the defense in the case. Mental competency to stand trial has nothing to do with the mental state of the individual at the time of the crime.

In this case, Santiago has answered, "yes" to understanding the 22-count indictment against him, and he has answered "no" when he was asked as to whether he objected to the delays in the case. If he is able to understand the charges and assist in his defense, legally he is mentally competent. Even though he is being treated for an undisclosed mental condition while in jail, his attorneys and the judge on the case have determined that this condition is not hindering his ability to understand the severity of the crime and potential punishment.

A Past with Mental Illness

Santiago was treated for mental illness in an Anchorage psychiatric facility briefly prior to the shooting after he showed up at a FBI office and told agents that he was hearing voices, and that he was under CIA mind control. Allegedly, he made similar comments about mind control after he was arrested for the shooting in Ft. Lauderdale. This history and the issue of mental competence could play a role in whether the Justice Department seeks the death penalty in the case.

In order to undergo criminal proceedings, you must be able to understand the indictments filed against you, and you have the right to assist in your own defense. If you have been arrested and accused of a crime, it's critically important that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the charges filed against you and what the potential punishments are for the crime.

References:

Anderson, C. (2017, March 14). Lawyer: FLL Shooting Suspect Mentally Competent. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Fort-Lauderdale-Airport-Alleged-Shooter-Appearing-in-Federal-Court-Thursday-413929513.html

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