Woman fit for trial on Big Isle
She faces charges including attempted murder by omission of a 10-year-old girl
A Big Island judge ruled yesterday that a woman who was taking care of a 10-year-old girl found with rotting flesh and broken bones is mentally fit for trial.
Circuit Judge Glenn Hara made his decision after a panel of three medical experts agreed that Hyacinth Poouahi could understand and assist with the proceedings.
Poouahi is accused of attempted murder by omission and related crimes for failing to get help for the girl, now 13. The girl was staying with Poouahi and her family for several months starting in 2004.
On Feb. 7, 2005, Poouahi called police and requested help for the girl, saying her self-inflicted wounds had worsened during the course of a few days. Rescuers found the girl lying on a concrete patio with rotting flesh, a partially bitten-off lip, broken bones and other injuries. She remained in a coma for six weeks.
Hara ordered the mental exam after Poouahi's attorney, Keith Shigetomi, said his client reported having hallucinations.
"I don't disagree" with the experts, Shigetomi said yesterday. "She's under treatment. She has a medicating doctor."
Shigetomi said Poouahi is being treated for depression and will be able to assist in her defense.
Poouahi, who is free on $25,000 bail, appeared in court yesterday.
Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville said court proceedings will start over with jury selection when the trial resumes on June 16. Sixty-five people screened as possible jurors had to be released because of trial delays.
Damerville said the trail was delayed about nine months while prosecutors searched for a psychiatrist to do the mental exam in exchange for $540 in compensation, the state's limit. The exam in Poouahi's case included reviewing 1,000 pages of documents and interviews.
A psychiatrist from Oahu completed the exam.
"It's not enough money," Damerville said. "You can only squeeze doctors so much. At some point in time, the Legislature or the Judiciary is going to have to wake up."
Damerville said Poouahi's alleged victim lives on the Big Island and is still improving.
"She's doing better," he said, "but when you go through something like this, there's going to be ups and downs. She's going to be in and out of the hospital for a long time."