Judge to weigh more tests of Catherine Hoggle’s fitness for trial in Md. children’s murders

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge will hear arguments Tuesday whether prosecutors should be granted more time, and an additional psychiatric evaluation, before the judge determines whether Catherine Hoggle is mentally competent to stand trial for murdering her children.

As WTOP reported, a psychiatrist selected by prosecutors reached a similar conclusion to one rendered repeatedly over four years by doctors at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, where Hoggle is being treated and tested — she is currently not competent to stand trial and remains dangerous.

Sarah, 3, and Jacob Hoggle, 2, disappeared almost five years ago, in Sept. 2014. Their mother was the last person known to have seen them.

On Friday, Judge Robert Greenberg scheduled a status hearing for Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 20, as both sides debate whether to follow the suggestion of Dr. Christiane Tellefsen, the former director of Perkins, that delaying Hoggle’s competency hearing until December will provide enough time for a “last resort” antipsychotic medication to take full effect.

Hoggle is several months into a medical trial of the drug Clozapine — a drug with several potentially dangerous side effects — prescribed by her treatment team at Perkins.

In a motion characterizing Tellefsen’s sealed report — which the judge has in his possession — Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy argued Hoggle “has been partially responsive to Clozapine,” and urged a delay. “The defendant is closer to competency than she has been in prior years.”

Prosecutors have been critical of previous evaluations by Dr. Danielle Robinson at Perkins, which have consistently said Hoggle was not competent to stand trial, but could become well-enough to assist in her own defense.

In July, McCarthy and co-counsel Ryan Wechsler were granted the opportunity to seek a second opinion after judge Greenberg said he wanted “another set of eyes.”

“Dr. Tellefsen has not reached a final decision on competency,” McCarthy wrote, in a motion filed Thursday. “The ultimate opinion will come, as she recommends, after the current medication trial is completed.”

Defense attorney David Felsen disagreed, saying Greenberg’s order to Tellefsen was to provide a current snapshot of whether Hoggle is competent now, not whether she could someday be found competent.

“In effect, the State is asking for more time, in the hope that evidence will change,” Felsen wrote.

A second portion of Greenberg’s original order to Tellefsen was to try to determine whether Hoggle is faking mental illness, to avoid prosecution — Montgomery County prosecutors believe she is.

While Tellefsen’s report is sealed, preventing verification by WTOP, Felsen’s motion said: “Dr. Tellefsen opined that 1) Ms. Hoggle was not faking her mental illness; 2) Ms. Hoggle is not malingering; and 3) that Dr. Tellefsen’s current findings are consistent with Dr. Robinson’s past findings.”

Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for McCarthy, declined to comment on Felsen’s characterization of Tellefsen’s report, on Hoggle’s current ability to stand trial.

Within the past day, sources said the court received Robinson’s most recent evaluation, which Greenberg ordered, in addition to Tellefsen’s second opinion analysis.

Greenberg is ultimately responsible for whether Hoggle is competent to stand trial, after adopting — or ignoring — the findings of mental health professionals.

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