Update: Sule Breaks Down; Judge Orders New Competency Exam
Ahmed Sule will have a new review of his competency before sentencing in 2010 Fridley sexual assault.
Update (noon Wednesday): Anoka County District Judge Tammi A. Frederickson ordered a new test of Ahmed Sule's competency to stand trial after Sule broke down in court Wednesday morning.
A jury convicted Sule Tuesday on five of six counts related the sexual assault of another Fridley resident in his home on Sept. 19, 2010. (The victim, who was 84 years old and blind, has since died.)
Sule's defense attorney, Jill Brisbois, requested the new evaluation based on what she said she learned Wednesday: that despite repeated explanations of court proceedings, Sule only realized Wednesday morning that he had been convicted.
Sule's new examination is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Anoka County Jail. Frederickson said she gave the examiner the option of either preparing a written report as soon as possible or testifying when court resumes on Friday at 9:30 a.m.
As with the rest of the trial, the scheduling of the exam and Friday proceedings were contingent on the availability of interpreters. Sule's first language is Oromo, according to Brisbois.
Sule's breakdown—"weeping, crying, shaking, speaking to himself," as Brisbois described it—came as the court tried to begin a scheduled proceeding to determine whether aggravated factors existed in the crimes that would allow a sentence outside of sentencing guidelines.
That outburst led to the surprise defense request for a new competency exam.
Frederickson asked Brisbois and Assistant County Attorney Wade Kish to submit any new motions for Friday morning in writing. She also told the jury she expected they would be done with the case on Friday.
Original post (10:45 a.m. Wednesday): The sentencing of Ahmed Sule stalled Wednesday morning when Sule, convicted Wednesday on five counts related to a 2010 sexual assault in Fridley, had what his attorney called a breakdown in court.
Anoka County District Judge Tammi A. Frederickson called a delay until 11 a.m. so she could consider a request from Sule's defense attorney, Jill Brisbois, for new tests of his competency to understand the proceedings.
"I truly believe he is not competent," Brisbois told Frederickson.
Brisbois said although her client had passed the court's earlier competency exam, she had long been "uncomfortable" with his competency. The events of the morning compelled her to ask for new evaluation of Sule, she said.
With a quieter Sule at her side at the defense table, Brisbois described what everyone in court had seen: "My client broke down. He began weeping, crying, shaking, speaking to himself (when) he came to the realization that he was actually convicted yesterday."
Assistant County Attorney Wade Kish asked the judge not to halt proceedings for a new competency exam. Instead, Kish asked Frederickson to proceed the morning's scheduled business: determining whether there were aggravating factors in the crimes of which the jury found Sule guilty.
Frederickson paused then decided to tell the jury there would be a delay. "We are working without a net. We don't have alternates (on the jury)," she said, adding that delays increase "the risk that we lose one of the 12 remaining jurors."
Last spring, a different district judge threw out the case against Sule because, he ruled, Sule hadn't understood what he agreed to when he allowed police to take DNA samples from him.
DNA is critical to the case because the 84-year-old victim in the Sept. 19, 2010, assault was legally blind. He has since died, but his testimony on video was part of the trial last week.
Detectives gathered new DNA from items including cigarette butts after Sule's release, and prosecutors filed amended charges based on the new DNA.