The Sept. 5 Bronx court hearing for Jose Gonzalez, the suspect in the murder of Fire Department Paramedic Yadira Arroyo, was adjourned until Oct. 24 because a defense psychiatrist had a heart attack and could not submit his report to the court.
For several months the court has heard dueling testimony from psychiatrists to determine whether Mr. Gonzalez is psychologically fit to stand trial. The report the court had expected to get concerned the defendant’s mental competency on the day he allegedly committed the crime.
A Previous Meltdown
An Aug. 15 hearing had ended abruptly when Mr. Gonzalez became enraged and had to be forcibly removed from the courtroom. He threatened to kill his attorney, who wanted him to plead guilty.
He demanded a new lawyer, a request Bronx Supreme Court Justice Michael Gross denied.
Ms. Arroyo, 44, a single mother of five, died after Mr. Gonzalez allegedly carjacked her ambulance in March 2017, drove over her and dragged her body until slamming into a parked car. He was apprehended at the scene by an MTA Police Officer on his way to work.
Throughout the 2-1/2-year legal process, Oren Barzilay, president of District Council 37’s Local 2507, which represents city Emergency Medical Technicians, has encouraged union members to show up at the proceedings to support the Arroyo family and hold the criminal-justice system accountable.
He said in a phone interview after the hearing that the union contingent had dwindled to just a handful, along with Ms. Arroyo’s uncle, aunt and brother, EMT Joey Arroyo, who joined the department after his sister’s murder.
‘Have to Do Better’
“There was 10 of us,” he said. “We just got to do better. We understand people are busy, but this could happen to anyone of us at any time and we need to make a commitment to show up. We would all want our families to be supported by our colleagues in an ordeal like this.”
Mr. Gonzalez has been widely reported as having serious mental health issues that require he take medication daily, something he routinely failed to do, according to his father. At the time of his arrest he was living in a city supportive housing unit where in June 2016 he allegedly assaulted a member of the staff.
In a phone interview, noted defense attorney Ron Kuby said that the criminal proceedings appeared to be moving along on two tracks at the same time.
“Everybody who has ever gone to trial on the insanity defense has already been declared sane enough to stand trial,” he said. “You don’t try people who are mentally incompetent to stand trial. So, the very fact you’re mentally competent to stand trial allows you to put up a defense that says ‘OK, I am sort of ok now, but I was really bad then.' "
‘Product of Mental Illness’
According to multiple press reports, Mr. Gonzalez was intoxicated at the time of the crime. “Voluntary intoxication does not constitute a mental disease or defect,” Mr. Kuby said. “But certainly, drug use can be a sequela of mental illness. People who are severely mentally ill or unstable tend to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.”
He noted, “In New York State it is the defense which has the burden of proving insanity. Had this not been a beloved EMT that was killed, this guy would have been packed off a long time ago and he would have spent the rest of his life being medicated.”
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