A Gloversville woman was formally deemed dangerously mentally ill last week, confirming a jury ruling after a March trial on charges she stabbed and tried to kill a cab driver.
Desere D. Shaw, 19, appeared in Schenectady County Court Thursday for a brief hearing to determine her mental health status.
Judge Michael V. Coccoma accepted the findings of two doctors who examined Shaw. The judge’s findings are the first in what is expected to be a series of examinations for Shaw as she starts her treatment for her mental illness at a secure state facility.
Afterward, Shaw’s attorney Michael Braccini noted that Shaw will be examined again in six months. Then, if found to still be dangerously mentally ill, be examined at intervals in coming years.
If Shaw is found someday to be well enough to start the process for release, Braccini said he’s been told that process takes about five years from a nonsecure facility to a halfway house. If she is released, she still will be under court supervision.
“We didn’t really dispute the finding that she does have some issues,” Braccini said, “but the prognosis, if you read the reports, was very good, meaning that if she takes her medications and she participates in the therapy that they’re giving her, that she could remain violence-free and not be a danger to other people.”
Braccini said it’s important that she will receive the help she needs, which she wouldn’t have gotten in state prison.
She is expected to spend her time at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in Goshen.
Shaw stood trial in March on charges that included attempted murder and first-degree assault. Braccini did not dispute that she attacked the cab driver, Derek Leach, with a knife on Feb. 7, 2013, on Eastern Avenue. Braccini argued, though, that she wasn’t criminally responsible by reason of her mental illness. The jury agreed.
Leach suffered life-threatening wounds in the attack. He was left to seek out assistance on his own, finally finding help at the downtown branch of the library.
Leach, who testified and attended much of the trial, still has a scar on his face and lingering effects, including numbness.
Shaw had been prescribed medications to control her mental condition, described by her attorney in closing arguments as bipolar with psychotic features. But she was not on her medications at the time of the attack, Braccini told the jury. Her mother had lost her insurance and Shaw stopped getting her medication, he said.
The trial was marked by experts on both sides testifying to opposite conclusions over Shaw‘s criminal responsibility.
Shaw exhibited odd behavior throughout the trial. She could be seen eating candy wrappers, paper cups and even tissues. She ate the tissues during her attorney’s closing arguments, prompting Judge Karen Drago, outside of the presence of the jury, to have the tissues removed from the defense table.
Prosecutor Michael DeMatteo said his office will be at the future hearings to ensure that she won’t be released until she can return to the community safely.
“Ultimately the judge makes the decision, but it’s up to us to follow this case along, which we intend to do,” DeMatteo said.