On Monday, the East Hampton Star reports, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that Thomas Gilbert Jr., who is accused of murdering his father, a prominent hedge-fund manager, is mentally competent to stand trial. Also, he wrote a letter to the DA reminding him that they went to the same school.
Gilbert’s competency hearing spanned 14 sessions before Justice Melissa C. Jackson, in which much of the accused’s personal history emerged. Alex Spiro, Gilbert’s lawyer, indicated that, if the case were allowed to go to trial, he would mount an insanity defense.
“The defendant’s psychiatric history is irrelevant to the issue at hand; it is the defendant’s current psychological condition that is relevant,” Justice Jackson wrote in her decision. Mental competence is determined by whether a defendant has the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his own defense.
“The court was particularly persuaded after observing the defendant in court on many occasions, his videotaped interview with Dr. Kirschner, and a recorded telephone conversation from Rikers Island between the defendant and an unknown female.”
During that phone call, Justice Jackson wrote, Gilbert “was laughing, rational, and engaged in a casual, frank conversation.” He “requested intellectually advanced reading materials, and expressed the desire to stay in the mental observation unit because he was treated better there.”
When Justice Jackson announced her decision from the bench, Shelly Gilbert, the defendant’s mother, and wife of the Thomas Gilbert Sr., let out a quiet gasp. She has attended every court session. Afterwards, Alex Spiro, the lawyer the Gilbert family has retained, not only for this case, but for Mr. Gilbert’s previous brushes with the law, huddled with Ms. Gilbert.
Craig Ortner, the prosecutor on the case, made it clear in comments during Monday’s session that he expects Mr. Spiro to introduce insanity as a defense during the trial, which could begin as early as February. He complained that Mr. Spiro should have made that application within 30 days of his client’s arraignment after he was indicted, and asked the court, on that basis, to disallow such a defense. Justice Jackson asked both sides to submit written responses to the motion, before she rules on it.
Prosecutors allege that Gilbert shot his father at his parents’ Beekman Place apartment after a drop in his allowance. Spiro, the New York Post reports, cited as evidence of his client’s incompetence a letter Gilbert wrote to District Attorney Cyrus Vance before Monday’s hearing in which the defendant appeals to the fact that he and Vance went to the same elite elementary school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
“I’m a graduate of Buckley,” Gilbert wrote. “Fortunately I’ve had access to the newspapers and have enjoyed reading articles about the DA’s offices and the city’s various cases...I was impressed by the overall decline in crime this summer, and the success of the [DA’s office’s] all-out program.”
In the letter, the Post reports, Gilbert reminds Vance that he went to Deerfield Academy and Princeton University before complaining about his experience with the criminal justice system. “From the beginning of this high-profile case,” Gilbert wrote, “I’ve been railroaded through hearings with no access to capital.”
“Further incarceration will not only be physically dangerous, but also continue to inflict irreparable damage on my personal life and career,” Gilbert argued. “Ideally my optimal goal is to dismiss and seal [the] indictment.”
The Post reports that Assistant DA Craig Ortner argued Gilbert’s letter was demonstrative of the fact that he can make rational arguments.