A Broome County judge signed off Tuesday on a postponement of the trial of former Binghamton University student Abdulsalam al-Zahrani based on reports that the defendant is not mentally competent to stand trial.
According to Vincent Accardi, the defendant’s attorney, al-Zahrani will remain in a state-funded psychiatric institution until doctors decide that he is fit to be tried in court.
“There was an examination, today was just saying that both sides accepted the recommendation,” Accardi said. “It would be up to his physicians when he would be competent to stand trial.”
Al-Zahrani, 46, was accused of stabbing Richard Antoun, Binghamton University professor emeritus of anthropology, four times with a six-inch kitchen blade on Dec. 4, 2009. Al-Zahrani was indicted on Jan. 22, 2010 on charges of second-degree murder.
Though no new trial date has been set, Accardi noted that this is only a postponement of the trial, with the idea that al-Zahrani would be able to stand trial at some point in the future.
Additionally, Accardi said that although al-Zahrani was deemed not mentally competent to stand trial at this time, the ruling will not have an effect on what the defendant’s mental state was at the time of the murder.
“This really deals more with a finding of his mental state currently, but would not affect a decision of what his mental state was at the time of the incident,” Accardi said. “This is not an end to the trial.”
According to Accardi, two Broome County psychologists concluded last week that al-Zahrani does not have the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense.
Last September, the defendant’s co-attorney, Frederica Miller, filed court documents that said al-Zahrani lacks criminal responsibility for his action under New York penal law because, due to mental defect, he could not appreciate the nature or consequences of the alleged crime.
Miller’s filing stated that two mental health experts, Steven Simring and Charles Ewing, would testify that al-Zahrani has schizoaffective disorder and was psychotic at the time of the stabbing.
Medical dictionaries describe schizoaffective disorder as a diagnosis characterized by severely depressed mood coupled with disconnection from reality.
Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen could not be reached for comment.