Man Accused of Killing 21-Month-Old Daughter to Undergo Mental Health Evaluation
by Iris St. Meran
The Syracuse man accused of killing his 21-month-old daughter will undergo a mental health evaluation. Ryan Lawrence was not in court but his attorney made the request in court Tuesday on his behalf. TWC News’ Iris St. Meran spoke to a long time criminal defense attorney who provided insight on how the results of a mental health examination could impact a case like this.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The defense attorney for Ryan Lawrence said he wants to have a mental health examination done as soon as possible.
“To make sure all bases are covered with respect to this matter, we’re having a mental health examination both as to competency and as to the eventual outcome of the case,” said defense attorney Michael Vavonese.
Donald Kelly, Tully Rinckey Managing Partner, is not involved in this case, but has been a criminal defense attorney for a number of years. Kelly says Lawrence would be evaluated by a panel of psychiatrists who will determine if he is competent to stand trial.
“None of them can talk about whether or not he was under any influence of mental illness at the time the crime was committed,” Kelly said. “None of them can do that. However, they can discuss and reach a conclusion on his mental capacity now.”
Kelly said if he isn’t competent now, a trial cannot be held until he is.
Syracuse police confirm they had previous contact with Lawrence, but none of those incidents indicated a mental illness, and he was not arrested or suspected of any crime.
When the Amber Alert was issued, saying that Lawrence had a history of mental health issues, police later clarified that statement, saying he was just emotionally unstable based on an alarming message he left behind. Kelly said that message could be harmful to the defense.
“It’s difficult to say that a person’s mental state was so deteriorated that they could commit this awful, awful act, yet at the same time have the wherewithal to write that note,” Kelly said.
There wasn’t much Vavonese could tell reporters after court. Kelly said that, at this stage, Vavonese is likely gathering as much information, also known as discovery, as possible in order to review the facts of the case.
“The police and the district attorney have had plenty of time to work on this case, and he’s had almost none,” Kelly said. “The district attorney and the police have all sorts of confessions and documentation and all other written statements, of which the defense attorney has none.”
It’s now up to a grand jury to decide on a possible indictment.