Competency Exam Discussed for Las Vegas Strip Hate Crime Suspect

Posted on: July 20, 2021, 06:46h. 

Last updated on: July 21, 2021, 11:56h.

A 57-year-old woman who allegedly struck a 6-year-old Asian boy and uttered racial slurs while at a Las Vegas Strip mall walkway could have her mental competency examined.

The boy was not injured from the attack
Shelly Ann Hill, pictured in a mug shot. She is scheduled to appear in court for a second time later this month on a Las Vegas hate crime charge. (Image: LVMPD)

The topic came up when the defendant, Shelly Ann Hill, appeared in court last week on multiple charges for the July 6 incident. These include committing a hate crime, battery, and child abuse.

When appearing in Las Vegas court, Hill told Justice of the Peace Harmony Letizia she did not understand how she could be charged with a hate crime, according to the Associated Press.

Hill also requested to be released from jail without posting bond, the AP adds.

Am I going home?” Hill asked Letizia at one point during the court appearance.

Letizia said public defenders will have to figure out whether to request a competency evaluation. Over the prior three years, Hill has had competency examinations for previous court cases, the AP said.

Hill remained in custody at the Clark County Detention Center on Tuesday. She has yet to post a $10,000 bond. She is due to appear in court again on July 27.

Video on TikTok

The boy was not injured from the attack. A video of the incident was posted by the victim’s mother. It got over 1 million views on TikTok.

As the case continues, a competency exam could play a key role in the justice process, lawyers said.

She has to be able to understand the charges against her and be able to assist in her own defense,” Robert Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad College of Law, told about Hill.

“A defendant who cannot do these two things cannot be tried, although they can be sent to a mental health facility where doctors can attempt to restore the defendant’s competency so that they can be tried,” Jarvis said.

A trial is not fair if the defendant does not understand the charges against her and cannot assist in her own defense, Jarvis added. The doctor who conducts such an exam is looking to make sure the defendant is lucid.

“A doctor has to be convinced that the defendant understands why she’s being held and the possible consequences if she is found guilty,” Jarvis explained.

If convicted on the charges, Hill could face a prison sentence.

Seriousness Of Charges Not the Issue

Even though the case got a lot of public attention, that is not why her competency may be reviewed.

“The seriousness of the charge does not matter — all trials in this country must be fair, and a fair trial cannot be held if the defendant is mentally incompetent,” Jarvis said.

In addition, Christopher Slobogin, professor of law at Vanderbilt University, where he also directs the Criminal Justice Program, told, “It appears that Hill understands the nature of a hate crime charge and is merely unwilling to plead guilty to it.

However, her mental health history and her specific reasons for believing she did not commit a hate crime may lead her attorneys to request an evaluation to see if she has irrational beliefs about what she has done or what her legal options are,” Slobogin added.