Defendant in Milford death ruled incompetentAP , Associated Press
Apr. 11, 2013 11:46 AM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — An Ecuadorean charged with being drunk when he dragged a Milford motorcyclist to his death has been ruled incompetent to stand trial because of language barriers and lack of knowledge of U.S. courts, but he could be tried later.
Nicolas Dutan-Guaman can't face trial now because of his "unique cultural background" and language barriers that mean he doesn't understand the court process and can't consult with his lawyer, Worcester Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker said in her ruling this week.
Guaman's lawyer, Peter Ettenberg, said his client has a limited understanding of English and Spanish because he speaks Quechua, a language indigenous to South America.
The judge ordered Ettenberg to find an interpreter and educate him on the court process. Another hearing was scheduled for June.
Dutan-Guaman, 35, faces second-degree murder and other charges in the 2011 death of Matthew Denice. Denice, 23, had just graduated from college.
Guaman, who is in the U.S. illegally according to authorities, was drunk when his pickup struck and dragged Denice's motorcycle a quarter mile with Denice stuck in the wheel well, police said. Witnesses told police that Guaman continued driving even while people banged on the side of his truck begging him to stop.
He has pleaded not guilty and is being held on bail.
The death touched off a fierce debate in Massachusetts about immigration enforcement.
Denice's mother, Maureen Maloney, complained that the suspect was being held to a different standard.
"It opens up a door for every person who is here illegally and commits a crime to use this defense," she told The Milford Daily News.
The judge held a competency hearing in January in which psychologists for the prosecution and the defense said Guaman has a low intelligence level, but the prosecution's expert said he has the ability to learn and assist in his own defense.
The judge said Dutan-Guaman does not have a mental disease or defect that would prohibit him from learning the information necessary to become competent for trial.
Ettenberg said he's not sure if he can be required to educate his client and was concerned about finding an interpreter.