DA's office monitoring mental health competency of homicide suspect

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David Brazy
Saturday, August 13, 2011
— A month after the stabbing death of a Janesville man in his downtown apartment, no charges have been filed against the suspect, and prosecutors continue to monitor his mental condition.

“It’s kind of putting the cart before the horse to file charges for a person who presumably is not competent,” District Attorney David O’Leary said. “All the criminal court is going to do is to ship him right back to Mendota and say, ‘Let us know when he is competent to proceed.’”

William A. Davis, 53, of Janesville is suspected in the July 12 stabbing death of Joseph Hanson, 40. The two lived in a downtown apartment building at 31 S. Main St.

Davis is being held on a civil commitment at Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison after a judge ruled July 28 that Davis was a threat to himself or others.

The investigation of the homicide is ongoing, and O’Leary said he still is receiving reports from the state crime lab.

Davis was arrested after a downstairs neighbor called Janesville police after hearing a disturbance. Davis charged naked at the officers when they knocked on his door, according to police.

The officers used Tasers to subdue Davis and took him into custody on an emergency mental hold. The downstairs neighbor later found Hanson lying in a blood-soaked bed in Hanson’s apartment with multiple stab wounds to his torso.

The case against Nathan L. Kropp is in a similar holding pattern; he is in a mental institution without criminal charges.

Kropp, 30, is accused of using a razor blade to slash his own neck and then cut the necks of his girlfriend and their 4-year-old child early Sunday morning. Kropp was “hearing voices in his head” at the time, according to police.

Kropp was transferred this week to Winnebago Mental Health Institute near Oshkosh for a mental evaluation.

Criminal charges have not been filed in either case, O’Leary said, because both men are presumably not competent to stand trial.

A defendant is considered not competent if he cannot understand the court proceedings or help in his defense.

The Janesville Police Department has placed holds on both men, O’Leary said. If either is found competent, the police department would notify his office, he said.

If Davis or Kropp is found competent to stand trial, either still could be found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Competency addresses the mental condition of the defendant at the time of the court proceedings. A finding of not guilty by reason of mental disease examines the defendant’s mental condition at the time of the crime.

A defendant found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect could be committed to a mental institution for up to the maximum sentence allowed for the crime. For first-degree intentional homicide, the maximum sentence is life, O’Leary said.

To be released, the defendant would have to prove he is no longer a danger to himself or others.

This differs from in a civil mental commitment, in which the burden is on the state to prove the person should stay locked up.

Last updated: 6:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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