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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CHARLOTTE JOANN WITMER (08/15/88)

submitted: August 15, 1988.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
CHARLOTTE JOANN WITMER, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of common Pleas of Lycoming County, Criminal Division at No. 86-10,167.

COUNSEL

Amy L. Hallenbeck, Assistant District Attorney, Montoursville, for Com., appellant.

William J. Miele, Williamsport, for appellee.

Tamilia, Popovich and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Popovich

[ 379 Pa. Super. Page 447]

This is an appeal by the Commonwealth from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County finding the appellee (Charlotte Joann Witmer) incompetent to stand trial and dismissing the charge of retail theft filed against her. We reverse.

The record indicates that on January 2, 1986, the appellee was arrested and charged with unlawfully taking possession of retail merchandise*fn1 from K-Mart totaling $61.29 with the intention of converting it to her own use without paying the owner for the value thereof in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. ยง 3929(a)(1).

A preliminary hearing was held and resulted in the appellee being bound over for court. Formal arraignment was

[ 379 Pa. Super. Page 448]

    waived by counsel. Next, of relevance here, is an indication in the record that a rule was made absolute granting the appellee's Motion for Psychiatric Examination to determine her competency to stand trial and sanity.

In furtherance thereof, a hearing was conducted in which the sole witness to appear and testify was Doctor Kastas P. Kratsa, the Director of the Lycoming/Clinton County Community Mental Health Center ("Health Center"). His credentials as an expert were not challenged by the Commonwealth.

Dr. Kratsa specializes in psychiatry and had known the appellee for over three years, beginning in 1984. She was an outpatient at the Health Center and was having her overall treatment supervised by the doctor.

His assessment of the patient/appellee, in regard to her competency to stand trial, was that she "demonstrated a fair degree of understanding" of the charge brought against her. However, he believed that she was not capable of assisting her counsel in preparing the case. The court below agreed, and, in an order dated February 5, 1988, found the appellee to be unable to aid in her defense, as well as insane at the time of the commission of the crime. Accordingly, under the M'Naghten Rule,*fn2 the court held the appellee to be incompetent to stand trial. Further, because there was no substantial probability that the appellee ...


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