A first-degree murder case against a woman alleged to have killed her infant daughter last year will likely never be prosecuted, after psychologists determined that the woman is mentally retarded.
Ee Lee, 24, of Madison, whose suspected abuse of her daughter, Anastasia, is alleged to have caused the girl's death on July 11, 2007, was treated successfully for psychosis, but psychologists at Winnebago Mental Health Institute determined that underneath that illness lay mental retardation and the intellect of an 8-year-old, Lee's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ellen Berz, said after a hearing Monday.
Lee is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless endangerment and two counts of child abuse. Assistant District Attorney Robert Kaiser said he would not challenge a finding by forensic psychologists that Lee will not become competent to stand trial anytime soon and that she instead should be taken to a mental health treatment facility for further evaluation.
Lee appeared cheerful when brought into court Monday, in stark contrast to her very somber appearance during most past court hearings. Asked by Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser if she understood what was happening, however, she paused, then said "No."
Assistant Public Defender Arnold Cohen, who also represents Lee, said a probable-cause hearing will be held at Mendota Mental Health Institute to determine if her mental condition is treatable. If it's not treatable - and it's not likely to be if she is retarded, Berz said - then Lee will likely be committed to state custody indefinitely.
Abuse of Anastasia was reported to Dane County Human Services after the girl was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries. She was sent home with her family while a more thorough investigation was done. A state review found the county's response to be lacking, including a failure to provide an adequate safety plan for the girl.
Human Services director Lynn Green said Monday that in doing family assessments, the department "is very cognizant of looking for those kinds of issues" and can ask for a court order to seek evaluations for mental health issues, substance abuse or cognitive delays if they are suspected.
Given the involvement of medical personnel, Green said, someone would have brought up the issue of mental health had it been apparent. She said she could not address Lee's case in any more detail because of confidentiality rules.
The court will periodically order competency reviews to determine whether Lee will ever gains competency to face criminal proceedings.
"Mental diseases such as retardation cannot be treated," Berz said. "There's no pill that will raise a person's I.Q. by 20 points."
Berz and Cohen had long raised the possibility that Lee was mentally retarded. The report presented in court on Monday made that diagnosis for the first time, Berz said.