Mental capacity decided, Tacoma man arraigned in hatchet killing

Staff writerOctober 4, 2013 

It was a formality, the official end of a process that started almost a year ago: Tacoma resident Jonathan Meline, 30, stands formally charged with first-degree murder.

Meline was arraigned Friday in Pierce County Superior Court. To psychologists and police, he admitted killing his father with a hatchet on Oct. 25, 2012.

Though he was charged at the time, Meline spent a year shifting between Western State Hospital and the Pierce County Jail while prosecutors, defense attorneys and mental-health experts debated his competency to stand trial. The final decision came in August: Meline was competent, Judge John Hickman decided.

In theory, a trial will follow. Hickman set the date for Nov. 18, and entered Meline’s plea of not guilty. Asked whether they intend to pursue a special defense, such as not guilty by reason of insanity, Meline’s defense attorneys reserved the option for a later date. Bail was set at $1 million.

Meline’s case sparked the passage of a law in the most recent legislative session. Before the 2012 killing, he had been released from Western State after he was found incompetent to stand trial on a charge of vehicular assault. Records of his psychological evaluations at the time said he was likely to act on his paranoid delusions, and warned against his release from jail.

The law passed by the Legislature added requirements for additional notification to local law enforcement agencies in cases such as Meline’s. It also added a layer of review for the release of patients from state hospitals after findings of incompetence.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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