SPOKANE, Wash. — A Spokane County judge is now weighing more than six years' worth of mental evaluations to determine whether Vladimir Pavlik is competent to stand trial.
Pavlik was arrested in October 2016 for the attempted murder of his wife, after police say he beat her unconscious and then cut out her tongue.
Since then, Pavlik has been sent to Eastern State Hospital numerous times and has undergone several competency evaluations, with differing results over the years.
"This is an ongoing thing from 2017 to 2023. Competent, not competent, competent, not competent," said defense attorney Mark Vovos.
Vovos asked for the latest competency hearing in December, arguing that Pavlik doesn't understand the judicial system, the charges against him, and cannot assist in his own defense.
"In 55 years of practice, I have never had anything like this or seen anything like this," Vovos said. "Asking him to comprehend the charges you can't just say he refused to answer. I've talked to him and I've said it in my declarations, he doesn't know what the charges are."
Prosecutor Nathan McKorkle called one witness, Dr. Patricia McCormick, a psychologist with the state's Office of Forensic Mental Health Services. She was the last doctor to evaluate Pavlik's competency in September 2022.
She said Pavlik appeared to have no real issues understanding her, even with the use of a Russian interpreter, and seemed eager to discuss his medical and mental health, but had 'limited engagement' when it came to his case.
"He typically responded with 'I don't know' and he typically was unwilling to guess answers and typically evaded those topics and attempted to draw my attention to his purported symptoms regarding his mental health," she said.
Dr. McCormick said she reviewed past mental evaluations, records from Pavlik's time at Eastern State Hospital, and consulted with his attending psychiatrist after her 90 minute interview with Pavlik. She compared his purported symptoms with her own observations and those in the records.
"I learned he was able to engage generally with topics that were of interest to him," she said.
Dr. McCormick said from her own interview and what she learned in past reporting, Pavlik was able to remember and recognize hospital staff, talk about his own medical care, and keep appointments without reminders. She says he was unwilling to take anti-psychotic medication.
"That was not pushed because he was not exhibiting impaired functioning throughout his time at Eastern State Hospital," she said.
Dr. McCormick testified that Pavlik seemed to draw attention to 'some deficit he had' in answering some of her questions, including saying he didn't recognize his own defense attorney and reported that 'once upon a time a head entered his flank and stayed there, he has communication with an invisible wall, that he has TV antennas that he can communicate.'
But McCormick noted Pavlik described these experiences calmly; she called these experiences 'atypical of individuals experiencing genuine psychosis.'
“My impressions were along the lines that, based off of historical data, his response style in the evaluation and his time at Eastern State Hospital, suggest he may have been making efforts to exaggerate symptoms," said Dr. McCormick said.
Vovos argues Pavlik cannot remember the circumstances of the alleged crime because of high blood sugar the night of his arrest and that his ongoing medical and mental conditions have further impaired his ability to understand the proceedings. He cited the possibility of dementia and complications from colon cancer as affecting Pavlik's competency.
Judge Timothy Fennessy will issue a ruling on competency at a later date. If he's ruled not competent, the state is statutorily allowed to ask for a competency restoration for a third time.
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