Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Man found fit for
trial in gun slaying

William Kotis Jr. is accused of
killing his wife in 1992

By Debra Barayuga

A man accused in the shotgun slaying of his wife nine years ago has been found fit to stand trial for second-degree murder.

Following a round of fitness hearings that concluded in August, Circuit Judge Reynaldo Graulty ruled on Friday that William Kotis Jr. can understand the proceedings against him, can assist in his own defense and is fit to proceed to trial.

Kotis was indicted for allegedly gunning down his estranged wife, Lynn Kotis, 29, in a Waikiki parking lot on Sept. 7, 1992.

Honolulu Police Department procedures came under scrutiny at the time because of Kotis' ability to obtain a gun permit and purchase a shotgun three days before the murder despite a previous conviction for domestic abuse.

Kotis has been found unfit to stand trial at least five times since his indictment in 1992. The state filed its latest request to determine Kotis' fitness last March.

Graulty found credible and "overwhelming evidence" that Kotis has been faking or exaggerating symptoms of mental disease and manipulated his behavior for personal gain. His findings are based on testimony from Kotis' treating doctor, staff at the Hawaii State Hospital and from four other doctors who examined him to some extent.

The court accepted the diagnosis of psychologist Thomas Merrill, who concluded that Kotis suffered from a personality disorder but has the cognitive capacity to assist in his defense.

Merrill had examined Kotis on two previous occasions and found him "consistent in his inconsistency," that his behavior was intentional and that he had made a "conscious decision" to pretend to be ill, the court noted.

David Bettencourt, attorney for Kotis, disputed the findings, saying it was based on Kotis' ability to deal with people at the State Hospital and his efforts to obtain privileges.

"That's a whole different ball of wax from making decisions on whether to testify in his own defense," Bettencourt said.

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