First Day of Stanford Competency Hearing: Prison Psychologist Says Amnesia is "Highly Unlikely"

Several experts disagreed whether disgraced financier R. Allen Stanford was competent to stand trial in January on charges that he masterminded one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history.  In a packed Houston courtroom, Stanford's lawyers sought to convince United States District Judge David Hittner that Stanford's memory loss stemming from a late-2009 beating by a fellow inmate prevented him from being adjudged competent for trial next month.  Judge Hittner previously delayed a trial scheduled for this past January after competency issues arose.  

After undergoing rehab for addiction issues relating to the prescription of medication following the beating, Stanford completed eight months of treatment at the Butner Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.  Coincidentally, Butner is also home to famous Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff.  While at Butner, Stanford was examined by Dr. Robert Cochrane, who prosecutors called as their first witness.  While Cochrane acknowledged that several of Stanford's ailments, including Hepatitis B and cirrhosis of the liver, would require attention during a prolonged trial, he was adamant that Stanford's amnesia claim was unfounded.  During tests specifically administered to detect patients faking amnesia, Stanford performed so poorly that doctors suspected the incorrect answers were deliberate.  According to Cochran, patients with known problems routinely answered more questions correctly.  Called as the prosecution's first witness, Cochrane will be a difficult witness for Judge Hittner to ignore, considering that Cochrane met with Stanford nearly every day and had 60-90 minute evaluation sessions with Stanford nearly weekly.

Countering Cochrane's testimony, Stanford's attorneys called neuropsychologist Richard Pollock, who opined that Stanford would have difficulty focusing, concentrating, or staying on task.  A key determination of competency revolves around whether an accused may adequately assist his counsel in preparing his defense. Echoing this, Pollock stated that he believed Stanford would have a very difficult time assisting his attorneys at trial. Addressing the tests purportedly designed to detect patients faking amnesia, Pollock questioned their reliability, and compared the tests to having the same shortcomings as polygraphs.  

Stanford's lawyers have asked Judge Hittner to delay the trial until at least April to allow Stanford additional time to recover.  Judge Hittner has stated that he expects the competecy hearing to last three days.