James “Big Time” Ofeldt with attorney Charles Odgers
As expected White Pine district Judge Steve Dobrescu denied ESP inmate Mike “Big Time” Ofeldt motion to represent himself in his murder trial set for this April.
In a terse five page decision Dobrescu apparently agreed with attorneys for the defense and the prosecution that Ofeldt was simply mentally incapable of defending himself in court and that such an attempt would be a disaster.
Previously in a motion to the court Nevada Public Defender Charles Odgers argued that Ofeldt is sane enough to stand trial but due to a “brain injury” not competent to serve as his own lawyer.
In his ruling earlier this month, Dobrescu agreed, noting Ofeldt apparent lack of understudying possible lack of verbal and writing skills as well as his apparent inability to concentrate or form coherent answers.
According to the joint response Ofeldt was diagnosed with a multitude of mental health disorders as early as 9 years old and in 2000 was diagnosed with an “organic brain injury”.
According to sources Ofeldt felt that implying he was not mentally healthy at the time of the killing was somehow demeaning and suggested that he was somehow weak. An implication that the inmate would even prefer a death sentence than admit to.
Accused of the 2011 murder of his cell mate Erik “Bingo” Hauser, Ofeldt has never denied the killing but instead has insisted he was acting in self defense.
Over the past two years, his once and now current defense attorney, Odgers has laid at least a preliminary case of self defense and according to more than a few pieces of correspondence between prison officials and the White Pine County Sheriff’s office they may have enough to raise at least a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors.
Documents obtained by the Advocate at least suggest that both investigators from the prison and the White Pine County Sheriff’s Department did not dismiss that angle out of hand.
According to those and other documents Ofeldt was fingered for killing to seal a truce between two white prison gangs the Aryan Warriors and the Skin Heads. Ofeldt, the correspondence suggested, was accused of being a snitch by the Aryan Warriors and Houser was picked for the job.
In doing so Odgers according to some observers has turned an open and shut murder case into something that just might lead a jury to consider reasonable doubt.
If Ofeldt’s mental health or lack of it also enters into evidence the trial could be his and his attorney’s to win.
According to BrainandSpinalCord.com sufferers “may be extremely agitated and tense, possibly even hostile. He or she may be confused and unable to think with the usual speed or clarity. Also, he or she may be disoriented and unable to concentrate or pay attention. Memory and decision-making abilities might also be impaired. Daily routine tasks such as driving, running a household, or conducting business may suffer. It is also often the case that short or long term memory can be affected, leading to a diminished capacity to process and retain information. One of the most extreme symptoms of this syndrome is dementia, which is generally not reversible and adversely affects memory, judgment, language, behavior, problem-solving ability, and overall independent functioning. Although often occurring in old age, dementia can also be brought on by serious infection or prolonged drug or alcohol abuse. As it progresses, the patient is gradually robbed of his or her ability to judge, think, behave appropriately, and sometimes even to express thoughts or feelings.”.
Those symptoms almost perfectly describe Ofeldt. From the day he arrived in 2004 Ofeldt has apparently been at war with Ely State Prison waged against both staff and fellow inmates alike. According to his prison disciplinary report, Ofeldt has spent almost half his so far nine years in prison under one form of discipline or another and close to four years in solitary confinement otherwise know as disciplinary segregation.
Most of the infractions Ofeldt was punished for were violent from fighting, assaults on other inmates to assaults on guards. His longest stretch in solitary began on October 31, 2009 and ended shortly before he killed cell mate Hauser in May 2011.
That long stretch in isolation could also play a role in his defense.
click for Newmont Notes
Last year, Judge Dan Papez found the potential of violence so great that he granted the prosecution motion that Ofeldt wear a stun belt during his upcoming trial.
Ofeldt was recently examined by Dr. John Matthew Fabian PSY.D., J.D., ABPP. According to his website. Dr. Fabian is one of a few national expert witnesses who is both board certified in Forensic and Clinical Psychology, and Fellowship Trained in Clinical Neuropsychology.
In a phone interview with the High Desert Advocate Fabian said he was asked to evaluate whether or not Ofeldt may have felt his life was threatened when the inmate killed Hauser.
While Fabian did not mention whether Ofeldt long periods of isolation could form a part of an insanity defense, the months if not years he spent in solitary would certainly figure on his state of mind.