The Congolese refugee claimed "cultural incompetence" to avoid going to trial for domestic violence charges
A New Hampshire judge has denied a request to reinstate domestic violence charges against a man who was deemed “culturally incompetent” to stand trial earlier this year.
Earlier this year, Congolese refugee Augustin Bahati was deemed “culturally incompetent” to stand trial for four counts of domestic violence. He was accused of “striking, pushing, grabbing, kicking and pulling out the hair of a woman who was 27 weeks pregnant at the time.”
A psychologist for the defense presented evidence that Bahati lacked the cultural competence to participate in the American justice system.
The psychologist also argued that Bahati’s “cultural competence” was not restorable, a term often used when describing a patient’s mental capacity.
The evidence was accepted by assistant city solicitor Andrea Muller, and the case was dismissed.
However, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald wasn’t satisfied with the decision, and began efforts to reinstate the charges. MacDonald’s office said Muller should have fought harder against the the incompetency finding.
His request was recently denied by Circut Court Judge Kimberly Chabot.
“There are no circumstances that warrant and/or support the State’s attempt at a ‘do-over,’ particularly where it took no action following the dismissals without prejudice on March 2,” Chabot wrote.
City solicitor Emily Rice made only one comment on the decision.
“All I can say is we made a decision not to appeal,” she said. She added that prosecutors rarely appeal decisions made in criminal cases, but did not explain the reason why.
Cultural competence is defined as “the ability to understand, appreciate and interact with persons from cultures and/or belief systems other than one’s own.”
It is not a widely used defense, and many legal experts initially disregarded the argument.
“This finding simply does not comport with the legal requirements for a finding of incompetency to stand trial and should have been aggressively litigated,” said Associate Attorney General Jane Young, not accepting the validity of the argument.
There is no word yet on whether the prosecution plans to appeal again.