A judge has ordered a civil trial for Patrick Hutchinson, accused of killing his wife and a firefighter before a violent standoff nearly four years ago, to determine whether he should remain involuntarily committed to a state mental hospital.
Every year since 2004, Hutchinson, a paranoid schizophrenic, has consented to psychiatric treatment at Central State Hospital in Louisville. But this year, his public defender says, Hutchinson is demanding his right to a civil trial.
By state law, a mentally ill person can be committed for only 360 days, after which the government must seek a new commitment order to keep the patient hospitalized.
Hutchinson's commitment expired Nov. 14, but he has remained hospitalized because the Fayette County commonwealth's attorney's office filed a petition for involuntary commitment Nov. 10.
At a hearing Thursday in Fayette Circuit Court, Judge James D. Ishmael appointed an attorney to protect Hutchinson's interests at the involuntary-commitment hearing, scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Hutchinson has a right to either a bench trial decided by the judge or a trial by jury.
Prosecutors must prove that Hutchinson remains a danger to himself and others, among other things. His doctors at Central State are expected to testify that he remains dangerous.
Ishmael also ordered the doctors from the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center to examine whether Hutchinson is competent to stand trial.
The competency exam will come into play if Ishmael or a jury finds next week that Hutchinson is no longer dangerous. Under Ishmael's order entered Thursday, Hutchinson is to remain hospitalized pending the competency exam.
If Hutchinson is found to no longer be dangerous, he'd be likely to be swiftly reindicted. Prosecutors then would have to prove he is competent for trial — that he is capable of understanding court proceedings and assisting in his defense.
It is possible under Kentucky law for Hutchinson to be found both incompetent for trial and not a danger to himself or others, making it impossible for the government to either hospitalize or prosecute him.
In February 2004, Hutchinson fatally shot his wife, Fontaine, 60, and killed Lexington firefighter Brenda Cowan, 40, according to police records. He also shot another firefighter, Jim Sandford.
He then engaged in a six-hour standoff with police that ended with police firing chemical rounds and then raiding the Adams Lane home in rural southern Fayette County.
During the standoff Hutchinson told a Herald-Leader reporter, who had accidentally called the home while attempting to contact neighbors, that he was staging a coup against human clones.
Hutchinson was charged with two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of wanton endangerment. Because Central State does not accept patients with pending felony charges, prosecutors dismissed his charges in 2004 after he was found incompetent to stand trial.
Hutchinson's criminal defense attorney, Samuel Cox, told Ishmael on Thursday that Hutchinson's mental condition has improved. He was last examined by correctional psychiatrists in 2004.
"It's been a long time ... " Cox said. "I don't know if he's competent or not. I believe he has made progress during his time at Central State Hospital."
In a brief phone interview, Hutchinson's mother, Madge, declined to say whether her son's condition has improved. But Madge Hutchinson said she's visited her son and stayed in contact with him.
The mother, who lives in Lexington, said she did not know why he is not consenting to further hospitalization. But she did note how long he's been at Central State.
"He'll be down there for five years in February," she said.