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Padilla Is Unfit for Trial, Attorneys Say

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Padilla Is Unfit for Trial, Attorneys Say


Padilla Is Unfit for Trial, Attorneys Say

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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In Miami today, a federal judge is holding a hearing to determine if Jose Padilla is competent to stand trial. Padilla is a U.S. citizen arrested nearly five years ago, and accused of being an al-Qaida operative. For most of that time, he was declared an enemy combatant and held in almost total isolation in a Navy brig.

His defense lawyers say because of treatment he received there, Padilla suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder. NPR's Greg Allen is with us from the courthouse in Miami. And Greg, tell us what happened at this hearing today.

GREG ALLEN: Hi, Melissa. Well, we heard mostly from medical professionals who were hired by the defense to do evaluations of Jose Padilla. And the two professionals was Dr. Angela Hagerty, who is a psychiatrist; also Patricia Zapf, who's a forensic psychologist.

They basically agreed on what their assessment was. They say that they saw a person who had a lot of anxiety, especially when the time of - topic about his time in the Navy Brig came up.

When you'd talked to him about it, he'd start sweating, his pupils would dilate, he'd just shut down. In some cases he would beg you to change the subject. And they saw him do this with them, also with his lawyers. And because of all this, they say that they believe that he actually has post-traumatic stress disorder, related to his time there at the Navy Brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

And because of that, that post-traumatic stress disorder, they believe that he's unable to assist his lawyers in the preparation of his defense.

BLOCK: Okay. And to - on the government side, who have they presented to challenge that evaluation?

ALLEN: Well, the government has a doctor of their own from the Bureau - Federal Bureau of Prisons who has done his assessment. His assessment, as we've not really seen it yet - it's not been introduced into court. We've seen it referred to in some motions. He says that, basically that Padilla does not have post-traumatic stress disorder. He said there might be some evidence of personality disorder, but we don't believe that he has anything like a post-traumatic stress disorder.

We'll hear from him tomorrow. But today we had some pretty strenuous cross-examinations by the prosecution, especially of Dr. Hagerty, the psychiatrist. And they got her to admit that basically on the scale when they went through -with one of these evaluations on the scale, he got a zero - Padilla got a zero on post-traumatic stress disorder, which means that not one question which showed, that registered post-traumatic stress disorder came up positive. She said that that is often the case with people in this situation.

She based her evaluation on the overall judgment, her judgment on the overall evaluation of Padilla, not just on that one evaluation tool.

BLOCK: Greg, it sounds like traffic is picking up outside the courthouse where you are reporting from. Who do you expect to be testifying after they finish with the doctors?

ALLEN: Well, as I say, we'll hear from the prosecution's - the Bureau of Prisons doctor, his evaluation. But most interestingly, we'll hear from some staff from the Navy Brig in Charleston. Now, these are people who - that this is the place where Padilla was held in total isolation of two and a half years. Even his lawyers didn't speak to him there. Very - we know very little about his time there.

It's very crucial, it will come play a crucial part in the trial, because basically Padilla's lawyers say that he was subjected to what amounted to torture there. So we'll hear from some of those people tomorrow. They'll be questioned I'm sure very closely about Padilla's situation when he was there in Charleston in the Navy brig.

BLOCK: And in the end, if Jose Padilla is declared competent, what happens next?

ALLEN: Well, the next thing coming up will be, there's a motion to dismiss all charges because of what's called outrageous government conduct. And this relates to his time at brig and the treatment that the defense says is torture. We'll have to hear about that and if that gets ruled on and goes - we go forward, the trial is set for April 16th. And the judge says she's going to stick with that date. Jury selection starts on April 16th.

BLOCK: Okay, Greg, thanks very much. NPR's Greg Allen outside of federal court in Miami.

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