Mental test ordered in murder case

Date: 2003-04-29

Mental test ordered in murder case

Apr 29, 2003
Linda Thomson
Deseret News
Brian Christopher Sullivan, who is charged with capital murder in connection with the deaths of his wife and 4-year-old daughter, will undergo a court-ordered psychological evaluation for mental competency.

In a somewhat unusual twist, 3rd District Judge Ann Boyden Monday ruled in favor of a petition from prosecutors asking for the evaluation. Typically, defense attorneys ask for these.

Prosecutor Kevin Murphy said he is not suggesting an insanity defense, but instead wants to keep such serious proceedings as clean as possible by putting to rest any doubt that Sullivan is competent to stand trial.

Murphy said the request stemmed from statements Sullivan apparently made about "religious sacrifices" and comments made to police about "operating under God's command" and how "some people might consider him crazy."

Religious comments alone are not enough to suggest mental instability, Murphy conceded, but should be seen in light of the entire situation.

"We're concerned, based on his statements and the highly unusual features of the alleged crimes, there is doubt about competency," Murphy said, urging the judge to err on the side of caution.

Defense attorney Lisa Remal objected to conducting a court- ordered evaluation right now since the defense team currently has its own private evaluators meeting with Sullivan in jail.

She expressed concerns that a court-ordered exam would provide information to prosecutors. "We want to keep the information private and privileged," she said. Remal said she was worried about violations of Sullivan's constitutional rights, including the right against self-incrimination, the right to counsel and the right to due process.

If any doubt about Sullivan's competency should arise from the private evaluations, then the defense team would be back before Boyden asking for a formal court-ordered evaluation, she said.

But the judge said prosecutors had presented enough evidence to raise the issue of doubt. Boyden also said any information gleaned from a court-ordered evaluation would be used in strict accordance with Utah's laws.

Sullivan, 38, is charged with two counts of aggravated homicide, and if he is convicted, he could face the death penalty.

The charges stem from the stabbing deaths of his wife, LaRae Marara Sullivan, and their daughter, Kehaulani Nui Sullivan. Their bodies, which had been cleaned, were found Feb. 21 in the family's West Valley home in a bed covered with blankets, according to court documents. A medical examiner said the pair had been dead for one or two days, court documents state.

E-MAIL: lindat@desnews.com

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