Competency hearing set for Pedersen

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


A competency hearing to determine if Clarence Dean Pedersen, 64, of Washington, is fit to stand trial for first-degree murder in the death of Ed Jones, 70, will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

On Friday, Pedersen?s arraignment was suspended when public defender Peter Persaud filed a motion to stay all proceedings until the competency evaluation could be completed. In the motion, he cited that Pedersen ?does not currently know his true and correct name, and to the best of counsel?s knowledge is no longer taking the antipsychotic medication he has been prescribed for the last several decades.?

?The law requires when there is an allegation regarding the defendent?s competency there has to be a hearing and a judge has to determine if there is probable cause to believe the defendant is incompetent to stand trial,? Washington County Attorney John Gish explained. ?If the judge finds there is probable cause at the hearing, the defendant is sent to be evaluated by professionals.?

Gish said if there is a determination that Pedersen is not competent to stand trial, much of what will happen in the future would be up to a judge and to mental health professionals. Gish commented than whenever a defendant is alleged to be mentally incompetent, legal proceedings take quite a while. Gish said if Pedersen is found incompetent, further evaluations can be ordered.

Iowa Code section 812.3 states, ?Upon a finding of probable cause sustaining the allegations, the court shall suspend further criminal proceedings and order the defendant to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether the defendant is suffering a mental disorder which prevents the defendant from appreciating the charge, understanding the proceedings, or assisting effectively in the defense. The order shall also authorize the evaluator to provide treatment necessary and appropriate to facilitate the evaluation. If an evaluation has been conducted within thirty days of the probable cause finding, the court is not required to order a new evaluation and may use the recent evaluation during a hearing under this chapter. Any party is entitled to a separate psychiatric evaluation by a psychiatrist or licensed, doctorate-level psychologist of their own choosing.?

An arraignment scheduled for Aug. 10 was also continued at Pedersen?s counsel?s request, citing that Pedersen did not understand the nature of the proceedings. In that filing, counsel stated Pedersen believes his name is ?Band Deano.?

Pedersen was arrested July 12 and charged with first-degree murder in Jones? death. At the time he was Jones? roommate. Washington Police responded to a 911 call at approximately 7:56 a.m., Wednesday, July 11, at an apartment complex located at 601 W. Adams St., later identified as Pedersen?s home. At the residence, Jones, 70, of Washington, was found deceased. Several pieces of evidence pointing to Pedersen being involved with Jones? death were recovered during the investigation, including a knife found at the scene. Pedersen also allegedly had a note in a lock box that read, ?kill Ed.?

Pedersen had also been convicted of murder in the past, but the conviction was overturned by the Iowa Supreme Court when it was ruled Pedersen had not been competent to stand trial. According to court records, Pederson was charged with the murder of Kent Nelson, his brother-in-law, on Dec. 30, 1978, after Nelson was found dead in Pederson?s parents? home in southwest Iowa. He died of a gunshot wound.