Jaycee Lee Dugard's alleged kidnapper on Thursday was ruled mentally competent to face trial in the 1991 abduction, a move that the prosecutor said could resolve the case by the end of this summer.
Phillip Garrido, whose mental state had been questioned by his own lawyer and the judge last fall, was scheduled to face a jury trial beginning Feb. 28 to decide whether he was mentally stable enough to face criminal charges in the kidnapping.
But lawyers on both sides agreed Thursday that they now believe he is competent and said the judge, rather than a jury, should decide the matter.
In a brief hearing in Placerville, El Dorado Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister said he had studied reports from psychiatrists who have examined Garrido and ruled that "the defendant is in fact competent to stand trial."
Garrido's public defender, Susan Gellman, later said outside court that she agreed he is now competent, meaning that he understands the nature of the proceedings and can assist her in defending him.
She added that psychiatrists who examined him "all agreed that he was mentally ill, but they had different labels for it."
Whether the case will ever actually go to trial is still uncertain. Lawyers on both sides said Thursday that plea agreements were possible, something that would shield Dugard and the two daughters she bore Garrido in captivity from having to testify.
"You never know," El Dorado District Attorney Vern Pierson said outside court when asked about a possible plea deal. "We try to anticipate a lot of things."
He added that he is "somewhat confident and hopeful" that the case, which has been in court since August 2009, will be settled by the end of summer.
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