A Southeast Washington woman accused of killing her four daughters was ordered transferred from the D.C. jail to St. Elizabeths Hospital yesterday for a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether she is mentally fit for trial.
The action came after Banita Jacks , 33, refused to cooperate with a court-ordered mental evaluation, declining to meet with psychiatrists because she does not want to pursue an insanity defense. D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick H. Weisberg ordered her to spend 45 days at the District's psychiatric hospital, where an assessment will then be made.
At a court hearing yesterday, Jacks said she refused to participate in the earlier evaluations because she believed they would automatically find her mentally unfit.
"I don't choose to talk," she said. "I'm afraid if they do talk to me, they might think I'm crazy, and I'm not."
Weisberg would not back off on the need for the psychiatric examination, telling Jacks: "I've been here 30 years plus, and I may be here another 30 or so years. I can wait it out if I have to. Until I can make a valid decision on your ability to defend yourself, this is where you're going to be."
Jacks has been jailed since Jan. 9, when she was arrested after federal marshals serving an eviction notice on her rowhouse on Sixth Street SE found the bodies of her four daughters, ages 5, 6, 11 and 16. Authorities said the girls had been dead for up to six months.
New details of Jacks's physical and mental condition emerged in a four-page report issued by the chief clinical psychologist for the District's Department of Mental Health, who was assigned to examine Jacks. In his report, psychologist Robert Benedetti noted that when Jacks arrived at the jail, she was put on suicide watch and checked every 15 minutes. A week later, she was reevaluated and removed from the protective watch. That evaluation concluded that Jacks had "encapsulated delusions, delayed speech, illogical thought processes, guarded attitude and poor insight and judgment," the court papers showed.
At the time, Jacks also refused medications, including antidepressants. In a March evaluation, Jacks denied hearing voices or having delusions or phobias but remained guarded. During a competency evaluation last month, performed under an Oct. 3 order from the judge, Jacks refused to be seen and began communicating with the nurses by wiggling her toes to answer yes or no, the report said.
A grand jury indicted Jacks in September on charges of premeditated first-degree murder. Her youngest daughter, Aja Fogle, 5, was strangled and beaten, according to the indictment. Her sisters, N'Kiah Fogle, 6, and Tatiana Jacks, 11, were strangled. Brittany Jacks , 16, whom her mother later referred to as a "Jezebel," was stabbed.
In the report, the psychologist and Jacks's public defender, Peter Krauthamer, agreed that Jacks was more cooperative with them before her Sept. 12 arraignment on the charges in the indictment.
Jacks's trial was set for Dec. 1 but will be delayed. Weisberg said Jacks is "frustrating" the process of a speedy trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines encouraged Weisberg to order the psychiatric evaluation and noted that "there was evidence of schizophrenia in her family." Several times during the hearing, Jacks rolled her eyes and turned her back to Sines.
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