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The Telegram
  • Mental exam ordered for man in fatal police pursuit crash

  • A Rochester man accused of causing the death of a Frankfort woman in a collision after a police chase last year will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. Concerns about 24-year-old Daniel Conklin’s competence to assist in his own defense were raised recent...
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  • A Rochester man accused of causing the death of a Frankfort woman in a collision after a police chase last year will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial.
    Concerns about 24-year-old Daniel Conklin’s competence to assist in his own defense were raised recently by his latest attorney, Norman Mastromoro, while attorneys for both sides try to work out a plea deal or take the case to trial.
    The reasons for seeking the evaluation were not revealed Tuesday in Herkimer County Court, but Judge John Crandall said he expects Conklin to be evaluated before two pre-trial hearings scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
    Crandall also scheduled Conklin to begin trial on Monday, March 11, for 15 charges, including second-degree manslaughter and unlawfully fleeing a police officer. 
    If a psychiatrist finds Conklin mentally unfit to proceed, however, the criminal case could be put on hold indefinitely while Conklin undergoes psychiatric treatment, prosecutors said. The case would then resume once Conklin’s mental state is no longer a concern.
    The fatal May 24, 2012, collision occurred several minutes after Herkimer police began to pursue Conklin’s vehicle for allegedly speeding through a school zone and after a woman exited the moving vehicle. Once the pursuit reached speeds in excess of 80 mph in the town of Schuyler, police said they called off the chase moments before Conklin’s vehicle crashed into an SUV driven by Gail Pietruska, 65, on Route 5.
    Pietruska’s sister — Louise Medallis, 54, who survived the crash — has since filed a notice of claim against the village accusing the Herkimer Police Department of negligence in pursuing a fleeing vehicle at high speeds without realizing the risk to public safety.
    Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter and Conklin’s attorney have not yet ruled out a possible plea resolution in the case. But such an offer — which would include prison time — must first be discussed with the victim’s family and the defendant, and would depend upon any psychiatric findings regarding Conklin’s mental state, Carpenter said.
    In the meantime, the Jan. 29 pre-trial hearings will examine two things: whether Conklin’s statements to police can be used at trial and whether police have enough evidence to show Conklin was actually behind the wheel at the time of crash.
    “It’s my burden to prove he was driving, and he’s holding me to that burden,” Carpenter said.

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