Senate Bill gives judges an option to refer defendant to mental health evaluation

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One week ago, a quiet residential street at Diamond Head became the center of chaos. Two police officers were shot and killed. The 77-year old woman, who neighbors say was the landlord, was found dead after a massive fire burned several homes. The sight of devastation at Diamond Head can be painful to bear. One neighbor tells us these last few days have been difficult, especially for those who are left with nothing. He says so much has happened that it’s hard to believe only a week has passed by.

Homes burned down to rubble, charred vehicles and trees have been a heavy sight for neighbors who were able to return to what’s left of Hibiscus Drive.

“The beginning of the week was really difficult as you can imagine,” said Stuart Coleman, Hibiscus Drive Resident.

Coleman tells us his heart goes out to his neighbors who lost everything. And in a time of darkness, neighborhood support has been the focus.

“Since the incident occurred, people have definitely become closer and everybody is kind of reaching out to each other.”

Like many, Coleman ponders what could’ve been done to avoid the tragic murders and fire. In an exclusive interview last week with neighbor Warren Daniel, he questioned about moving forward without seeing real change. Daniel was one of the neighbors who filed a temporary restraining order against suspect Jerry Hanel.

“If you’re worried about mental health of people who you’re issuing a TRO to or retraining orders to, the underlying discussion is mental health,” said Daniel. “So maybe a mental health evaluation should be part of a TRO so you really know.”

Senator Karl Rhoads has been working on a measure that gives judges an option to refer a defendant to a mental health evaluation.

“So it’s really aimed at ending the cycle. The prisons are not equipped to take care of psychiatric patients but there’s an alarming high percentage of people in prison or jail who do have psychiatric problems,” said Rhoads.

Judges already have a lot of independent authority but this measure would make that power more formal and clear.

“And it acts as sort of education for all the judges like hey you need to think about all the stuff that you have within your power,” he said.

Currently, the proposal focuses on criminal cases but Rhoads is open to expanding it to civil cases regarding restraining orders.

“We started working on this bill before this tragedy occurred,” Rhoads said, “but I think it’s a great idea and I certainly will try to incorporate that into the bill as it goes along.”

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