Destiny Coulson, charged with shooting and killing her boyfriend, has been ruled incompetent at this stage of her trial.
On Wednesday in the Berrien County Courthouse we found out more about the 17-year-old and her mental illness diagnosis that her attorney, Lanny Fisher, argued is significant enough to affect her murder trial.
"As a defense attorney it's huge," said Fisher. "You need your client to be able to read police reports, give you details, fill in the blanks. At this point she's not able to do that."
Fisher set out to prove that to the judge.
Dr. Jeffrey Kieliszewski, who evaluated Coulson, was the only person Fisher called to the stand.
Kieliszewski said the teenager told him the voices in her head "were distracting."
"During our discussion she talked about hearing voices or auditory hallucinations," said Kieliszewski. "She told me she had been having experiences like this since she was a small girl, and didn't tell many doctors that she had this type of experience."
Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli said while the teen reads at a third-grade level, she understands what's going on and understands the proceedings. But there are a lot of “ifs, ands or maybes” related to her competency.
"The key thing is it may effect, it has a possibility to effect – he's very speculative," said Pierangeli about the psychologist's conclusion. "That's a lot of speculation that something may happen at trial."
Pierangeli’s two witnesses supported his argument that Coulson showed no signs of incompetency.
Pierangeli asked John Pickar, one of the teachers at the Berrien County RESA, has there ever been any indication based on his experience that she's had hallucinations or heard voices – Pickar replied, "No, not from what I've seen."
Fisher said the only conclusion that matters is that of the experts.
"The only expert who testified and tested her said, ‘I believe she's not competent at this point,’" Fisher told the judge.
Judge Thomas Nelson ruled her mental illness would affect her ability to help her lawyer, but this is just one issue. The courts will have to determine if Coulson will be tried as an adult or in the juvenile court system.
Nelson said that will happen after the 17-year-old is evaluated by a psychiatrist who will determine if there is a further need for medication or other treatment that will get her to a level of competence.
Coulson returns to court May 16.