WOODLAND — Court proceedings for a Davis woman accused of drowning her daughter ground to a halt Friday morning after her attorney declared a doubt as to her client’s mental competency to stand trial.
Yolo Superior Court Judge David Reed immediately suspended Aquelin Crystal Talamantes’ case so that she could undergo a psychological evaluation by a court-appointed mental health professional.
Reed also vacated a preliminary hearing set for Thursday and ordered Talamantes back to court on Dec. 9 for ruling in the competency matter.
Prosecuting attorney Ryan Couzens questioned whether two evaluations should be conducted, but Reed said that would only be required if Talamantes did not want the court to find her incompetent.
“Does she oppose your request?” Reed asked Talamantes’ attorney, Supervising Deputy Public Defender Sally Fredericksen.
“No,” Fredericksen replied. She declined to comment afterward regarding her reasons for seeking the evaluation.
Under California law, attorneys may declare a doubt regarding their client’s mental competency if they believe the defendant is unable to understand the nature or consequences of legal proceedings or assist their lawyer in preparing their defense.
“This is part of making sure that the process is fair,” prosecuting attorney Ryan Couzens told reporters outside the courthouse Friday. If Talamantes is found mentally competent, criminal proceedings would resume as planned.
If not? “We’ll just take that step when it happens,” Couzens said.
Police arrested Talamantes on Sept. 26 after she arrived at a relative’s apartment in Sacramento with the body of 5-year-old Tatiana Garcia in the trunk of her car. Authorities later determined that the alleged events leading to the girl’s death occurred at the family’s Glide Drive home in Davis, where Talamantes and her two children had been living for the past several weeks.
Sacramento County coroner’s officials announced Nov. 1 that drowning was the girl’s cause of death. Talamantes has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of murder and assault on a child causing death.
Talamantes remains in custody at the Yolo County Jail, where she is being held without bail. Several family members were in court for Friday’s hearing but declined to comment as they left the Woodland courthouse.
— Reach Lauren Keene at email@example.com or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene