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Sentencing of Mom Who Killed Girls Stalls Over Her Competency

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By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 17, 2009

A D.C. Superior Court judge delayed the sentencing Friday of Banita Jacks in the murders of her four daughters after her attorneys requested additional observation to determine whether their client was mentally ill and whether that illness led her to mistakenly rejecting an insanity plea.

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Judge Frederick H. Weisberg set a follow-up hearing for Dec. 18 to allow prosecutors time to review the latest doctor's report, which allegedly questions Jacks's mental state at the time she rebuffed her attorneys' advice and refused an insanity defense.

Jacks's attorneys first alerted Weisberg to their concerns in July, just days before the judge found Jacks guilty of killing her four daughters, ages 5, 6, 11 and 16, and living with their decomposing bodies in their Southeast Washington rowhouse before until her arrest Jan. 9, 2008.

In July, on the last day of the eight-day trial, Jacks's attorneys approached Weisberg with the report. At the time, one of Jacks's attorneys, David Norman, said the report outlined statements Jacks allegedly made to a doctor within days of her arrest.

But Weisberg told the attorneys at that time that they should have submitted the report during their defense, not after both sides gave closing arguments.

At the hearing Friday, Norman asked Weisberg to appoint an outside attorney to review Jacks's competency as a result of the report. Prosecutors will also examine that request during the two months before the Dec. 18 hearing.

In addition to rejecting an insanity defense, Jacks also waived her right to a jury trial. She faces life in prison without parole.

An obviously frustrated Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines argued that the request was a "delay tactic."

During hearings last year before the trial, Weisberg ordered several competency hearings for Jacks. She refused to comply. He then ordered her briefly committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital for evaluation before determining that she was competent enough to refuse an insanity defense.

At Friday's hearing, Jacks again told Weisberg that she opposed an insanity defense and that her attorneys were pursuing the strategy against her wishes. "I do not wish to plead not guilty by reason of insanity," she said.

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