Because the results of a mental health evaluation of Hollister resident Sang Ji were not available on April 18, Judge Steven Sanders moved the hearing to May 1. Ji—accused of murdering his wife, Yoon “Clara” Ji—received his evaluation 30 minutes after his April 18 hearing was scheduled to begin.
Ji is now expected to appear in court the same day as South Korean national Jung Choi, who is separately facing trial in Yoon’s death.
On March 29, Judge Gilbert Brown approved defense attorney Gregory Laforge’s request for Ji to undergo a mental competency evaluation, also known as a 1368 motion, before trial. Brown suspended criminal proceedings against Ji pending the evaluation.
According to Clinical Psychiatry News, up to 50,000 defendants are referred to be evaluated for competency each year. However, being found incompetent doesn’t disqualify someone from facing trial.
“A mentally ill defendant can be considered competent to stand trial if the illness does not impair his ability to understand court proceedings or assist in his defense,” the article states.
The Supreme court ruled in Dusky vs. United States in 1960 that mental competency is based on whether the defendant understands the trial proceedings and can consult with his defense lawyers to a “reasonable degree.”
Ji and Choi were arrested in December 2017, four days after one of Ji’s daughters filed a missing person report for their mother. According to a report by the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, the daughters were suspicious of Sang Ji’s claim that his wife had returned to South Korea. One daughter became increasingly concerned after relatives in South Korea had told her Yoon had not returned. Ji eventually led investigators to Yoon’s body buried in a shallow grave later that month.