More mental health tests ordered for man held on $100-million bond in knife attack
Mulugeta Zemu Mana
By ALEX RIGGINS Mar 22, 2017
TWIN FALLS — Concerns over mental health issues and a language barrier have stalled the trial of a Salt Lake City man accused of slashing at another man with a knife and cutting his victim’s hand in an apparently unprovoked attack July 28 outside a Twin Falls apartment building.
Mulugeta Zemu Mana is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Mana, 33, will undergo a second round of mental-health tests to determine if he is competent to stand trial. Meanwhile, his public defender Ben Andersen is preparing to argue that a taped police interview isn’t admissible in court because officers didn’t properly inform him of his rights.
“Officer (Dzevad) Mustafic questioned him without reading him his rights,” Andersen wrote in a motion filed last month.
Mana is a refugee who speaks Tigrinya and likely is from the African horn nation of Eritrea.
Andersen said Mana’s Miranda rights were read to him after an initial interrogation, but they were “rattled off … in a perfunctory manner.
The rights were given in English despite the fact there are phone language services available that could connect with an appropriate interpreter within a minute or two.”
Mustafic “badgered” Mana and ordered him to give up his right against self-incrimination, Andersen argued in his written motion.
“Mana’s limited English was more likely to understand a police order to ‘start talking,’ rather than the later abstract legal concepts quickly laid out after Mr. Mana had already self-incriminated,” Andersen wrote.
Mana was set to stand trial in May, but all scheduled hearings, including one planned for next week on the police tape, have been temporarily vacated after a judge last week ordered Mana to undergo a second mental competency evaluation.
In September, after his lawyer requested the first evaluation, a doctor found Mana was not competent to proceed with the case nor to make his own treatment decisions. He was committed to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare for treatment, and in December, the chief psychologist at State Hospital South in Blackfoot determined Mana was fit to proceed in the case.
But during his time in treatment, a social worker reported Mana showed “no evidence of any delusions or mental health issues” and determined the concerns reported by the first mental evaluator were likely caused by translation issues.
But Anderson wrote last week in requesting the second mental health evaluation that he doesn’t believe translation issues are the root concern.
“Defense counsel believes (Mana) lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense due to a mental defect,” Andersen wrote. “Defense counsel cannot communicate meaningfully with defendant regarding the case.”
Man held in Twin Falls on $100-million bond attacked without motive or provocation, victim says