SACRAMENTO — Phillip Garrido's competence to stand trial in the Jaycee Lee Dugard kidnapping will not be decided until a hearing in early March, an El Dorado Superior Court judge decided Thursday, and more mental health experts may be appointed to examine him before then.
Judge Douglas Phimister also said he would allow arguments in early December by a lawyer for The Bee and other media groups seeking to have dozens of documents in the case unsealed, including Garrido's psychiatric records and transcripts of Dugard's secret testimony to a grand jury in September about her 18 years of captivity.
Garrido and his wife, Nancy, are accused of kidnapping Dugard in 1991 when she was 11 and holding her captive. As the case has proceeded over the past year, the judge has sealed about 29 documents and held a number of closed hearings, including two sessions that took place out of public view Thursday.
Media attorney Karl Olson, who successfully forced the release of Garrido's parole records by state corrections officials, has filed arguments stating that the documents should be released and the hearings opened because the public has a right to know what is happening in the case.
The judge last week ordered three documents unsealed.
El Dorado District Attorney Vern Pierson and Nancy Garrido's lawyer, Stephen Tapson, have opposed releasing approximately 160 pages of grand jury transcripts, saying the ability to seat an unbiased jury in the matter would be jeopardized by publication of what Dugard told the panel.
"This stuff is evil," Tapson said of the descriptions contained in the transcripts. "Obviously, I would assume that Jaycee doesn't want this stuff out there."
Olson said the law gives the public the right to see such materials, and he cited one decision involving Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski that allowed release of his psychiatric records.
As Olson spoke to reporters Thursday following a brief open hearing, the judge was holding another closed hearing in the matter.
Phimister indicated he would allow arguments on the issue Dec. 2, and he said he was inclined to keep Phillip Garrido's competency hearing open in March.
That session is expected to determine whether Garrido, whose competency has been questioned by his public defender and the judge, is able to stand trial or must be sent to a mental hospital until he is found to be competent.
Garrido sat quietly in court Thursday sporting a new gray beard while his wife sat nearby. Both are being held in the El Dorado County jail.