Kenneth L. Curtis

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Kenneth L. Curtis (born August 3, 1965) is a former college student from Connecticut who on October 30, 1987 shot and killed his estranged girlfriend, and shot himself in the head. He was charged criminally for the killing, but originally was found mentally incompetent to stand trial, and had the criminal charges dismissed.[1] Years later, he enrolled in college, and pursued studies as a pre-med student. He again was charged with the killing, found competent, and subsequently pleaded guilty to manslaughter.[2]

The case (Connecticut vs. Kenneth Curtis) changed the views in the justice system of mental competence to stand trial.[3] Prior to this case, those given such an assessment were viewed as not restorable, and charges would be dismissed in favor of periodic reviews used only in determining the need for a civil commitment.[4]

The case[edit]

On October 30, 1987, Curtis shot his estranged girlfriend Donna Kalson in a bar parking lot in Stratford, Connecticut, killing her. He then shot himself in a murder-suicide attempt. He also injured one of Kalson's friends who was in her company in the process. After a lengthy hospitalization in which he was on advanced life support, he survived his own shot, leaving him severely disabled.[5] He was partially brain damaged and paralyzed.

After being released from the hospital, Curtis was charged with Kalson's murder and the attempted murder of her friend.[6] But following his recovery, more than a year after the incident, he was given a mental competence evaluation to determine if he could stand trial for his crimes. During the evaluation, it was found that his ability to read or understand were impaired, and he had no memory of the incident. As a result, he was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. But he was not ordered to be confined to a mental institution. He was allowed to return home. Kalson's family was initially unaware of this.

This did not sit well with Donna Kalson's parents when they learned, following a tip, that Curtis was attending a local college. The Kalsons arranged for their own investigation of Curtis. Reporters for News Channel 8 observed Curtis taking classes at a local college with an apparent goal of a career in psychiatry. His grades were mostly As and Bs; his grade point average after receiving 48 credits was 3.3,[7] information that was obtained from a search warrant on Curtis's grades at three colleges executed by Stratford police.[8] His actions on campus, including a conversation the reporters had directly with Curtis, were filmed by reporters. While Curtis's defense team called many doctors to testify on his behalf, the video produced by the network was viewed as overwhelming evidence in favor of declaring him mentally competent.[9]

Curtis's defense team attempted to fight the actions taken against him, claiming that he was already declared incompetent and could not be tried due to a Connecticut law that required such closure of all cases of this type after 18 months. They took their battles all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court.[10] But double jeopardy laws and other laws were not considered to be applicable, and Curtis was ordered to stand trial.

Curtis pleaded guilty in 1999 to manslaughter and received a 20-year prison sentence, the maximum allowed for charges of manslaughter.[11][12]

Curtis was paroled in 2011.[13]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ MacFarquhar, Neil (September 17, 1999). "Guilty Plea in '87 Killing; Case Altered Competency Laws". New York Times. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  2. ^ "METRO NEWS BRIEFS: CONNECTICUT; Student Loses His Bid To Quash Murder Counts". The New York Times. August 26, 1998. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ Neighbors, I.; National Organization of Forensic Social Work (2002). Social Work and the Law: Proceedings of the National Organization of Forensic Social Work, 2000. Haworth Press. p. 15. ISBN 9780789015488. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  4. ^ Neighbors, I.; National Organization of Forensic Social Work (2002). Social Work and the Law: Proceedings of the National Organization of Forensic Social Work, 2000. Haworth Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780789015488. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Connecticut in legal quandary over man accused of murder". CNN. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Fit to Be Tried". people.com. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  7. ^ "News of the Weird | Miami New Times". miaminewtimes.com. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  8. ^ Neighbors, I.; National Organization of Forensic Social Work (2002). Social Work and the Law: Proceedings of the National Organization of Forensic Social Work, 2000. Haworth Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780789015488. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  9. ^ "news/1999/may/05131999-curtis". video.wtnh.com. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  10. ^ "news/1998/sep/093098". video.wtnh.com. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Man Found Incompetent but Gets Prison". Los Angeles Times. December 4, 1999. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  12. ^ "www.ctinmateinfo.state.ct.us/detailsupv.asp?id_inmt_num=260245". ctinmateinfo.state.ct.us. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Connecticut Local News and News 8 Video - New Haven, Hartford | WTNH". wtnh.com. Retrieved February 17, 2017.