The man charged with killing a Metro mechanic and wounding two others during a shooting spree at the Potomac Avenue Metro station in February is at D.C.’s St. Elizabeths Hospital for now — as attorneys debate whether he’s competent to stand trial.
During a court hearing in the case Friday, Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. said a full competency evaluation conducted by the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health found 31-year-old Isaiah Trotman was competent to continue the proceedings and indicated there was evidence he was feigning a disorder at the time he was examined.
“There is evidence of malingering,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Jackson, using the term to describe someone faking or exaggerating an illness. Results on some of the psychological testing “are characteristic of an individual feigning a disorder,” she added.
The doctor’s report went on to say there was evidence Trotman was intentionally presenting “false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms,” Jackson said, motivated by his desire to evade criminal proceedings and remain at the psychiatric hospital rather than return to the D.C. Jail.
Defense attorneys strongly disputed the report’s findings, saying Trotman has a history of serious mental illness.
Ashley Prather-Guzman, with the D.C. Public Defender Service, said the report actually indicates “that there is some residual psychosis still happening” and defense attorneys needed an opportunity to hire their own expert to evaluate Trotman.
She said the report’s findings “warrant a second opinion, especially given Mr. Trotman’s well-documented history of mental illness … It’s very clear that he was unwell prior to the hospitalization, when he had nothing to gain from it — when he had a job and he had a home and would have every reason to try to be well.”
Trotman is accused of shooting a man exiting a Metrobus near the Potomac Avenue Metro station Feb. 1. Prosecutors said Trotman then held multiple people at gunpoint on the Metro platform and fatally shot Robert Cunningham when the 64-year-old Metro mechanic tried to wrestle the gun away from him.
Charging documents indicate Trotman acted erratically as the shooting unfolded, telling one of the victims, “Look me in the face, I’m a prophet. You are going to die with me today,” according to the documents.
Trotman was initially held at the D.C. Jail after his arrest, but his attorneys filed an emergency motion for a preliminary mental health screening Feb. 27, which indicated he was experiencing “extreme psychosis” and was “not being properly cared for at the jail,” according to Joseph Yarbough, another of Trotman’s defense attorneys.
A judge then ordered the full competency examination to be conducted at St. Elizabeths, where Trotman could receive inpatient treatment.
That full competency examination — the findings of which were discussed in court Friday — indicated he no longer needed inpatient treatment, and prosecutors said Trotman could continue receiving his prescribed medication at the D.C. Jail.
“We have an expert trained in this field who says that he no longer needs inpatient treatment,” Jackson said. “Therefore, based on the expert’s opinion, the government would request — considering the malingering nature on the defendant — that he be returned to the D.C. jail.”
Defense attorneys said Trotman initially struggled in the jail and is not currently on any antipsychotic medication.
“It is our fear that when he goes back to the jail without that antipsychotic medication that he will deteriorate, and then we’ll have to start this process all over again,” Prather-Guzman said.
Trotman’s defense attorneys also said they needed more time to challenge the findings of the full competency evaluation, which was only provided the day before Friday’s hearing.
Judge Maribeth Raffinan granted the defense request to hire its own doctor to evaluate Trotman. But she put off a decision about whether to return Trotman to the D.C. Jail until April 27, giving the attorneys more time to make their arguments in writing.