Circuit Judge Bynum Gibson on Friday ordered a mental evaluation for a Drew County man who faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the February 2012 beating death of his 2-year-old step-daughter, Aubriana Coke.
Daniel Pedraza, through his attorneys, Jeff Rosenzweig, Birc Morledge and Timothy Leonard, filed a notice last week saying their 24-year-old client is not fit to proceed and requested a court-ordered mental evaluation and hearing on the matter.
Attached to the notice were letters from a neuropsyschologist and a psychiatrist who both previously evaluated Pedraza and concluded that he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Pedraza, according to Dr. Antolin Llorente’s letter, avoids certain aspects of his formative years, like that sometimes observed in individuals with a history of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“He… provided this clinician with information that was not accurate related to his own history of abuse while living in his home and as a child and adolescent, similar to that experienced by and admitted to this clinician by his other siblings, and his own father, not because he was trying to deceive this clinician, but rather as a result of avoidance of a topic as it must be extremely psychologically painful. He also took a similar posture when discussing facts about his experiences in the Iraq war when he was overseas,” Llorente wrote. “He also made irrational statements and there is also a certain degree of mistrust, verging on paranoia, towards his own counsel and others alike as a result of his mental disorder, which he is unfortunately not aware of. Therefore, although he may come across to lay individuals as a psychologically healthy individual, he is not, and it is my impression that he suffers from PTSD.”
Dr. Pablo Stewart reached the same conclusion.
“It is my opinion, which I hold to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that Mr. Pedraza is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Stewart wrote. “This condition currently makes him unable to assist counsel and understand his legal proceedings.”
Pedraza’s attorneys asked for a court-ordered examination and that proceedings be suspended. Pedraza’s trial has been set for May 30.
His attorneys also asked Gibson to conduct a hearing to set “ground rules” as to the admissibility of any statements that may be made in the course of the examination.
Tenth Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen did not object to a psychological examination but said it is premature for the court to decide what use, if any, may be made by Pedraza’s statements during the examination.
Deen asked that Gibson issue an order for the evaluation with an added provision that Pedraza’s attorneys provide the evaluator with all of Pedraza’s military records and other records in their possession or control, including records provided to Drs. Llorente and Stewart.
Gibson issued an order Friday committing Pedraza to the Arkansas State Hospital for a period not exceeding 30 days. He ordered Deen’s office to provide a copy of his file to the examiner and ordered Pedraza’s attorneys to provide to the examiner any available information relevant to the evaluation including psychiatric, medical and military records and any records pertaining to the treatment of Pedraza for substance or alcohol abuse.
There was no notice of a hearing filed.