KALAMAZOO, Mich. — When the judge concluded that a juvenile, accused of choking a teacher at Kalamazoo Central High School in February, was to remain in detention, the crowd stood up and shouted “shameful” and “racist" at the court.
According to police reports, the incident happened in February. The 15-year-old has since been detained at the detention center on Gull Road. He had his first competency hearing on May 18. However it was adjourned to give the prosecution time to read through the multi-page mental competency report that was given to the courts the day before. Tuesday afternoon, it was adjourned again.
“This report unfortunately is replete with similar and consistently inconsistent reports and statements,” said assistant prosecuting attorney Ramie Almeda during the hearing. “So for that reason we’re asking for an independent psychological evaluation, a competency evaluation.”
Almeda told Judge Julie Phillips that there were "issues within the current competency report that bring into question the final results." The report states that the student is incompetent to stand trial. Almeda disagreed saying that the student — who FOX 17 is not identifying because he’s a minor — is fit for trial. Almeda pointed out that while in juvenile detention, the student understood the rules enough to earn a 75-day pass to return home. However, he’s now back in detention.
“I can cite as many paragraphs in the report as the prosecuting attorney has that indicate that the conclusions of the report are valid,” said defense attorney Scott Ryder. “And it is my client’s position that what the examiner did was give a full and complete assessment and information to the court, from which the full and complete assessment offering examples of both sides of behavior.”
Ryder read from the report, stating the pages and paragraphs at the judge’s request. He said that the juvenile’s mother noted that her son struggles to comprehend legal concepts and has a hard time with communication.
“With times, [the student] struggles to describe whats he’s attempting to convey to others,” Ryder said while looking at the report. “Further she says there are times when [the student] will shut down and say nothing, which [the student’s] not aware of what is going on around him.”
Judge Phillips followed along while Ryder read the report. She spoke a few times as well.
“You skipped over the sentence that says ‘the same report identified [the student’s] teacher,' and it names him, 'reported [the student] only needed periodic reminders to remain on task within the classroom,'” she said. “You skipped that sentence.”
Judge Phillips read other lines in the report that she stated were “skipped.” She said she went through the report with a “fine-toothed comb” and found it to be inconsistent.
“Unfortunately the last hearing that we had, we didn’t get [the report] until a late-hour, and so that was under concern that we wanted to make sure that this is accurate,” she said. “In this report, be that as it may, there’s inconsistencies.”
Judge Phillips went on to state that the student should remain in detention due to his behavior and background, saying he will not be released on a tether. When court was over, the student stood up, cried and walked out the door. His parents did so as well.
“I felt like they got it out for my son in so many ways,” said Earnest Gathing Jr. during an interview outside the Justice Complex. “They're bringing up situations that he didn’t start, he had no control of. They're keeping it over him. Even the prosecutor's bringing up the old cases with his disability.”
The assistant prosecuting attorney mentioned in court that the student has committed over a dozen crimes in the last three years. Gathing said via text message to FOX 17 on Wednesday that his son has been convicted of several crimes -- car theft, assault, and destruction of property among others -- but not robbery. He felt that his son's past should not have been brought up on Tuesday.
He and local activists, including Michigan United, felt the student's disability should be considered in court. Kalamazoo City Commissioner Shannon Sykes-Nehring echoed the same sentiment. She said she's been following the case closely and is upset with how it's unfolding.
“Should the prosecutor's office get their way, he will be charged as an adult, and he will face 10 to15 years,” Sykes-Nehring said. “A 15-year-old child with mental health issues that again are, as of yet, unaddressed.”
The next hearing is scheduled for August 10.