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Biswanath Halder sane to face trial
Arthur J Pais | April 23, 2005 20:33 IST
In a case the prosecutors say took an extraordinary time to take a man to trial, an Ohio judge has ruled that 64-year-old Biswanath Halder is sane enough to be tried.
Halder faces death sentence for killing a man, injuring two others and holding scores of students and staff at Case Western Reserve University hostage for more than seven hours about two years ago.
Judge Peggy Foley Jones of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas acknowledged that while Halder has "severe personality disorder" confirmed by three forensic psychologists, she agreed with Barbara Bergman, one of the experts, who believed that Halder was capable of understanding the court proceedings despite his mental problems.
The other two experts had asserted that Halder is delusional, paranoid and was a bit psychotic.
Bergman had told the court that Halder seemed lucid and clear-minded when he spoke to her about the trial.
"Therefore, this court finds that the defense has not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant is not competent to stand trial," she wrote.
The trial could start within a month. Her decision means that Halder won't be sent to a mental hospital and treated at length before he could be tried.
He faces trial for 338 felony charges, including aggravated murder and terrorism. The state law was changed soon after September 11 terrorist attack in New York to include hostage taking in a government institution under terrorism acts.
Halder, who was known for his outspoken views against American foreign policy in the Middle East, became the first person to be charged under the state's terrorism act.
Halder on numerous occasions has written to the officials and the media including rediff.com that the court appointed attorneys were not doing that job properly. In fact, they are helping the prosecutors, he had alleged.
Halder, who allegedly held a grudge against one of the university's employees, went on a killing spree not too far from the office of the man he accused of hacking and destroying his website that Halder says was set up to help Indian businessmen.
Halder, who was taking business courses at Case Western, had lost a case against the alleged computer hacker. Norman Wallace, the man who was killed, happened to be the proverbial wrong person at the wrong time.
While a number of psychiatrists who examined Halder for nearly two years came to conflicting conclusions, Halder kept writing letters to newspapers, acquaintances and friends that the person who should be tried is the computer hacker.
His court appointed lawyers -- he has several of them since people who could face a death sentence are required by the state law to have a wide representation -- have sought to argue that he lacks the mental capacity to understand the proceedings.
They also said that he was not capable of helping them to defend him.