Lishan Wang, the man charged with murdering a Yale School of Medicine fellow in April, is competent to stand trial, a forensic psychiatrist testified before the New Haven Superior Court Monday.
Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Cotterell, of the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital, evaluated Wang in late November. On Monday, Cotterell testified that Wang understands the charges against him and the proceedings of the court, and that he is mentally fit to assist in his defense, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Eugene Calistro Jr. said in an interview.
Wang requested the opportunity to fire his public defenders and represent himself back in August, but a judge ruled him incompetent in September and required him to undergo two months of mental health treatment in state custody. Wang was then transferred to the custody of the Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services for 60 days, with the understanding that his competency would be re-evaluated after that period, the News reported.
State law mandates that a defendant be able to understand court proceedings in order to stand trial.
However, Judge Roland Fasano will not rule on Wang’s competency until late January, when a psychiatrist working for the defense will present his own evaluation of Wang. The defense has hired Yale School of Medicine Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Peter Morgan, and Morgan will testify to the court at the next hearing Jan. 19, Morgan confirmed.
If the judge finds that Wang is restored to competence, Wang will be brought to trial in a criminal prosecution, Yale Law School professor Steven Duke, who specializes in criminal law, wrote in an email.
“As long as he is incompetent, he cannot be put to trial. He cannot be convicted or sentenced,” Duke wrote.
However, he added, the court can continue to revisit the issue of whether Wang is competent “for months, even years.”
Wang, 44, faces charges of fatally shooting Yale postdoctoral fellow Dr. Vajinder Toor outside Toor’s home on April 26. Wang and Toor previously had contact in 2008, when Wang was a resident at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn and Toor, then Wang’s boss, confronted Wang for neglecting his duties. Wang was eventually fired and sued Kingsbrook for alleged racial discrimination.
Toor was a first-year postdoctoral fellow in infectious diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale.