Iowa Disability Rights Can’t Stand Trial

On March 16, 2016, a tragedy occurred in Council Bluffs, IA.

That morning, Council Bluffs police officers found Jackie Dieckmann and Illa Pfeiffer dead in their home. Michael Dieckmann – who has severe schizophrenia – murdered them. Michael is Jackie’s son and Illa’s grandson, and has a long history of violence due to his mental illness. Jackie had been trying for years to enter him into a long-term care facility. Before March 16, Michael’s troubling psychosis worsened due to issues with taking his prescription medicines.

Tragedy for Disability Rights

Since the March 16 murders, Michael has been in custody at the Pottawattamie County Jail. To move the case forward, an expert needed to formally declare Michael mentally competent or incompetent to stand trial. The evaluation did not happen until mid-December, leaving Michael waiting in jail.

Jails are not set up to handle inmates with severe mental illness, so oftentimes their symptoms worsen significantly. During those nine months of waiting, Michael’s mental health worsened and at one point he assaulted a correctional officer.

Now that his case has moved forward, Michael will be transferred to the state prison system’s mental-health facility at Oakdale. There, he will be given treatment. Eventually, experts will re-evaluate Michael to determine if he will be able to stand trial for the March 16 murders.

Advocates say that these debilitating long waits in jail for individuals with mental illnesses are common. That is because the state does not have many experts who can determine whether or not individuals like Michael are capable or not of standing trial.

Read the article here.