Mental status hearing focus
Truong accused in 2011 shooting
BENTONVILLE — A treatment team at Arkansas State Hospital believes a murder suspect is fit to be tried, but she hasn’t had a mental evaluation because a certified Vietnamese interpreter is needed.
34, of Bentonville is charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a man in 2011. She was found mentally unfit to stand trial and has been held at the State Hospital since April 12, 2012.
Truong was returned to the Benton County Jail last week. The State Hospital sent court officials a letter saying the treatment team believes she is fit for trial. The letter also states a Vietnamese interpreter is needed for a mental evaluation, but the State Hospital doesn’t have one.
Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green said during a hearing Wednesday that she never received the letter.
“I’m not confident we are ready to proceed to trial since no evaluation took place,” Green said.
A Vietnamese interpreter was used via telephone at Wednesday’s hearing.
Green said she wanted to talk with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which operates the hospital, to hear how officials there concluded Truong is fit. Jay Saxton, Truong’s attorney, also requested a hearing.
Carrie Dobbs, deputy prosecutor, said she had reviewed the letter and discussed it with Billy Burris with the State Hospital. Dobbs believes Truong was improperly returned to Benton County because she is under a 180-day civil commitment out of Pulaski County. The request for
the commitment was filed March 10. The hospital has petitioned on six-month intervals for Truong to remain there.
It can’t be determined if Truong is fit to proceed to trial without a mental evaluation, said Dobbs, who wants her returned to the hospital.
Truong spoke to the court for a few moments in Vietnamese. Truong said she wanted to be released, according to the interpreter.
Saxton said he’s worried Truong will not receive her medication while in jail, and her mental condition will get
worse. Saxton said it will be better for Truong if she is taken back to the State Hospital.
“I’m not crazy,” Truong said in English.
Green ordered Truong be returned to the hospital under the civil commitment.
Truong doesn’t believe the man she’s accused of killing is dead, according to court documents filed in March in Pulaski County. Truong insists she saw the man while she was in jail and doesn’t understand the
severity of the charge against her, according to court documents.
Truong would be a risk to herself and others if released from the hospital, according to the documents.
She is accused of killing Minh Van Trinh in 2011. Hoa Le of Bentonville told police she drove Trinh to Truong’s home on Southeast Seventh Street. Trinh asked Le to drive him there after he saw an online advertisement for massages, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Le claims she waited in her vehicle and saw Trinh knock on the glass door on the west side of the residence. He then went to the front door, according to court documents. Le said a woman she knew as “Huong” answered the door and began speaking with Trinh, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Truong left the doorway as Trinh remained standing outside the residence on the front step. Le said she heard a muffled noise and watched Trinh fall back off the porch onto the ground, according to court documents.
Police later found a Kel-tec .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol and a shell casing in the home.