‘What Are We Going to Do About Tyler?’

ON NOV. 17, 2012, Tyler Haire was arrested in Vardaman, Mississippi, for attacking his father’s girlfriend with a knife. Tyler, 16, had called 911 himself, and when they arrived, the local police found him seated quietly on a tree stump outside the home on County Road 433. The boy alternately said he could remember nothing and that they had the wrong man.

Tyler was taken to the county jail in Pittsboro, 12 miles away, where the sheriff, worried that the awkward and overweight boy might hurt himself or be targeted by other inmates, placed him in a cell used for solitary confinement.

Tyler had turned 17 by the time, five months later, a grand jury indicted him for aggravated assault, and his case went before a judge.

Tyler’s defense lawyer, appointed by the court, informed the judge in a court filing that his attempts at speaking with the boy had made it apparent the 17-year-old did not have “sufficient mental capacity” to understand the charge he was facing. The lawyer wanted Tyler to undergo a psychiatric examination. He listed the many reasons why that was appropriate:

During his childhood, Tyler had been found to be suffering from seven different mental disorders, the first diagnosis coming when he was just four years old; he had threatened to bomb his school; he had chased his two siblings with a knife trying to stab them; his family suspected that he’d strangled a cat to death with his bare hands; he’d been hospitalized on several occasions and later placed in a home for troubled boys.

The local prosecutor joined the defense lawyer’s request for an evaluation, and Judge John A. Gregory immediately signed an order to have Tyler assessed at the state hospital in Whitfield to determine if Tyler had a factual and rational understanding of the legal proceeding against him, as well as whether, at the time of the non-fatal assault, he knew the “difference between right and wrong.”

“It is therefore ordered and adjudged,” Gregory wrote on April 23, 2013, “that the defendant Tyler Douglas Haire be given a mental evaluation at the earliest possible date.”

– Pro Publica

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