DENVER – The court overseeing the case of the suspect charged with killing 10 people at a Boulder King Soopers in March 2021 will determine whether he is mentally fit to proceed to trial by early October, a judge ruled Tuesday, after denying a surprise motion from the defense for a second competency hearing.
The ruling came nearly a week after the state found 24-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa competent to stand trial following nearly two years of delays since the suspect was deemed mentally incompetent in December 2021.
During a status conference Tuesday, Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty urged the court to deny the motion, arguing that a report from the state mental hospital from Aug. 18 showed there was improvement in the suspect’s mental capacity in March 2023.
Dougherty told the court that August report from the state hospital in Pueblo was a direct result of everything that’s happened leading to Tuesday’s hearing and expressed how families of the victims have felt outrage, frustration, and pure exhaustion given the delays in the case.
“To these victims, this is the most important case in the world,” Dougherty said in court, arguing that it would be a “mistake and cause for an unnecessary delay” to order another evaluation.
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The defense argued, however, that the procedural history in the case against Alissa was reason enough to approve a second competency evaluation.
“I do not believe he has been restored to competency,” said Kathryn Herold, the suspect’s attorney, in court Tuesday.
Ultimately, the judge sided with the prosecution, arguing that both sides had been preparing for a restoration hearing, which is a hearing where the court determines whether or not the suspect is competent to proceed with the motions in the case.
"I'm thankful to the judge that she did deny the motion and I’m very thankful for the DA and his team because they’re rockstars and pursuing justice for all of us victims," said Robert Olds, uncle of Rikki Olds, who was among the victims killed in the shooting.
That restoration hearing must happen before Oct. 3, and the date "has to be sorted out based upon the schedule for the doctors," Dougherty said at a news conference following the Tuesday hearing.
The judge also ruled Tuesday that the suspect should remain at the Colorado Mental Health Institute of Pueblo instead of being transferred to the Boulder County Jail, arguing transferring the suspect there would be “wholly irresponsible” given the progress that has been made to restore him to competency after nearly two years of delays.
If he’s restored to competency, under the law, he could be transferred back to the Boulder County Jail or he could remain at the state hospital.
A preliminary hearing date has been scheduled for Nov. 14 at 9 a.m. should the court find the suspect mentally fit to stand trial.
"I really don’t know what to expect (during the restoration hearing). My hopes are that the restoration hearing will prove that he’s competent based on the state mental health hospital doctors doing their job and restoring him to competency," Olds said.
In February of this year, lawyers for the suspect said he had schizophrenia and that his symptoms were resistant to medications, according to the Associated Press.
But a month later, prosecutors asked a judge to bring in their own neuropsychologist to evaluate the accused gunman, hoping that the outside expert could determine whether the suspect really was mentally incompetent. A judged ruled at the time that “the people lack the authority’" and those decisions rested solely with the Colorado Mental Health Institute of Pueblo.
Colorado Revised Statutes state the court must review the case of the defendant who has been found incompetent every 91 days until four reviews are complete.
Alissa is accused of killing 65-year-old Jody Waters; 62-year-old Lynn Murray; 61-year-old Kevin Mahoney; 59-year-old Suzanne Fountain; 51-year-old Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley; 51-year-old Teri Leiker; 49-year-old Tralona Bartkowiak; 25-year-old Rikki Olds; 23-year-old Neven Stanisic; and 20-year-old Denny Stong.
Denver7's Colette Bordelon contributed to this report.