-- A court showdown was averted once again Wednesday when a Butte
County Jail inmate was transferred to a state mental hospital for
treatment — some six months after a judge had ordered that action.
For at least the third time, Napa State Hospital had claimed it
didn't have enough bed space to treat a Butte County defendant who was
found mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Jason Edward Lisle had been ordered committed to the state
hospital last January after doctors determined he was unable to
competently assist in his defense to a felony charge of failing to
register as a convicted sex offender, according to court records.
When his court-appointed attorney, Jodea Foster, said he got an
angry phone message last month from Lisle saying he was still in the
county jail, Foster filed a motion asking that Lisle be released from
custody for the state's failure to comply with the court treatment
Butte County Superior Court Judge James Reilley ordered the
director of Napa State Hospital and his legal representative to appear
in court Wednesday to answer the accusation.
But the matter was dismissed without a hearing after the judge
said he received a written response from the state Attorney General's
Office stating that the inmate had been transferred from the county
jail to the state hospital last week.
Last year, the directors of all four of the state's locked
mental hospitals had similarly been ordered into court before another
judge to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for allowing
three other mentally incompetent defendants to languish for months in
the Butte County Jail.
As was the case Wednesday, bed space was found for the three,
despite the state's claim that it had to establish a waiting list for
such court commitments because its mental hospitals were full.
A spokesman for the California Department of Mental Health told
the Enterprise-Record then that the hospitals had received permission
to temporarily "over-bed" above their rated capacity to deal with the
local jail problem.
In a related action Wednesday, Reilley signed recommittment
papers back to Napa for James Lee Mathews, 37, of Chico, who has been
found mentally incompetent to stand trial three separate times.
A report to the court stated that each time Mathews had been
restored to legal competency, he "seemed to decompensate" when returned
to the county jail.
Mathews has filed a $3 million federal civil rights lawsuit
against the county, claiming that he was beaten by a guard and several
inmates when he protested the denial of prescribed medication for a
cognitive mental disorder.
Last week, Mathews claimed he was again assaulted by at least
three jailers when he was unable to comply with their orders to place
his hands up so he could be searched for weapons before being permitted
to use the jail's law library.
Butte County Sheriff Perry Reniff responded to the inmate's
allegations by seeking misdemeanor charges of battery against a
correctional officer against Mathews.
Citing a recent federal court decision, Reilley Wednesday
ordered Mathews transferred out of the local jail within seven days and
placed back into the trial competency program at Napa State Hospital.
The judge set a status review in two weeks to ensure that his order has been carried out.