After weeks of evaluations by forensic psychologists, Pamela Courtnage, the woman who is charged with killing her mother was found unfit for trial for the second time. A forensic psychologist professor from the University of Montana to broke down the process on how they determine to deem someone unfit to stand trial.
The first step is actually seeing if they understand the charges that are brought against them. From there professor Laura Kirsch said it's a very detailed process that's done through the Montana state hospital
Dr. Laura Kirsch said, "so when someone has a major mental illness or an intellectual disability that might impair their ability to understand what's going on in court or rational think about the case of being able to distinguish from the reality of the case or a fantasy world if they are having delusions."
One major factor in determining the mental health of a person is their history but before a person is deemed "unfit" there are multiple tests they must go through to make sure they are not faking a mental disorder.
Dr. Kirsch said mental illness doesn't just come out of the blue usually people who have schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder has a pretty long history of symptoms.
Because a doctor deems someone unfit to stand trial doesn't mean that couldn't change in the future. In Dr. Kirsch's experience, it could take up to a year or two for a person to become fit. She said there are treatments, a lot of times you can prescribe anti-psychotic or mood stabilizing medication and that can help reduce those symptoms
Dr. Virginia Hill is the Montana State Hospital Psychologist, who diagnosed Courtnage with Schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, which means she suffers from hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptom, despite being on three different medications. Dr. Hill came to the conclusion that she will not be able to stand trial in the near future.
Courtnage will remain at the Montana State Hospital while the court decides if she should be committed to involuntary treatment.
Dr. Kirsch said about one-quarter of people who are referred for an evaluation are found un fit., which means about three quarters are fit to stand trial.