A mistrial was declared Friday in the competency trial of a San Mateo psychiatrist accused of molesting seven male patients during the early 1990s, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
William Ayres, 79, suffers from dementia and memory loss, which his attorneys argued prevent him from understanding the nature of the charges against him and cooperating in his defense.
Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan, however, said the court has built-in protections that allow people with impairments to participate in trials.
The jurors deadlocked 8-4 today, with the majority saying Ayres’ dementia rendered him incompetent to stand trial, leading the court to declare a mistrial, Wagstaffe said.
The case will continue next week, when the judge and attorneys will decide whether to retry the competency issue. Otherwise, Ayres is considered competent, Wagstaffe said.
“We are very disappointed,” he said. “It’s another roadblock.”
Ayres was charged with nine counts of performing lewd acts on seven boys during counseling sessions that took place between 1991 and 1996. A criminal trial in the summer of 2009 ended with a hung jury, but prosecutors decided that August to retry the case.
The criminal proceedings were suspended when Ayres’ attorney, Jonathan McDougall, questioned his client’s competency in light of “an insidious onset of dementia.”
Ayres’ wife of 49 years, Solveig Ayres, testified in the trial that her husband struggled to remember their son’s name, their door code, and the meaning of the word “biscuit.”
McDougall said Thursday that Ayres’ current and future cognitive decline would have a “huge impact” on the outcome of a complex criminal trial.
He said that the inability to remember details about events that happened during the 1990s or the testimony of other witnesses would severely compromise Ayres’ defense.
McKowan, however, argued that memory loss does not constitute incompetence. She said Ayres could testify at his own speed, request breaks, and keep a personal record throughout the trial of his statements and decisions.
She said McDougall also would be allowed to use records and transcripts from the 2009 trial, during which Ayres testified that he had conducted exams in which boys were naked from the waist down but that nothing inappropriate had happened.
-- Bay City News