Mirtha Arias, 48, of Hollywood, Florida, was arrested this week after she allegedly slashed her son’s throat with a box cutter and then turned the blade on herself. She has since been booked for one count of attempted murder. While her son’s injuries were very serious, he is expected to survive.
It is unknown whether Mirtha Arias has been given a bond or has retained a defense lawyer. According to new reports, she has been Baker Acted and is to undergo a psychiatric evaluation sometime soon.
I have to say, of all the criminal cases I have litigated in my career as a defense lawyer, this case is very bothersome. The claim that this mother slashed her son’s throat is utterly horrific. That poor child probably suffered something terrible while it was happening. I really feel bad for him.
Before I delve further, I want to emphasize that the opinions I express herein are based strictly on the information presented in the media. Without access to the court file, the police reports, witness statements, or other evidence, it is very difficult to ask the right questions or draw any meaningful conclusions.
However, that being said, I think this case comes down to two issues that may help Mirtha Arias develop a successful defense against prosecution in this case.
First is the mom’s mental health problems. In the absence of evidence that Arias abused her children or has tortured them in the past, it is clear that this episode represents a very psychotic departure from reality. For that reason, I strongly suspect that Arias has a meaningful insanity defense. Moreover, Arias may not even be mentally competent to stand trial.
Mirtha Arias’ defense lawyer should have her evaluated for mental competency before proceeding any further with the case. Mental competency not only includes the defendant’s ability to understand and appreciate the nature of the proceedings pending against that person, but his or her ability to participate in their own defense and aid their defense lawyer in preparing their case.
Aside from Mirtha Arias’ mental health, I wonder if there is any meaningful evidence that she even committed this crime. According to news reports, the police seem to base their conclusions on a singular statement made by the three year old boy.
According to the arrest report, the three year old victim told police “My mommy did this to me.” According to Lt. Scott Pardon of the Hollywood Police Department, “The three year old was able to tell us that his mother did this.”
Without any other evidence, this case should not be allowed to proceed on the testimony of a three year old witness. First of all, we have no way of knowing what the three year old was referring to when he made that statement. For that, jurors will be required to rely on the presumptions of the officers present. Second, the mental capacity of a three year old to record events in a meaningful way is non-existent.
Put simply, the infantile brain does not function like an adolescent, teenage, or adult brain. In case you are wondering if this is true, try to write down your fondest memories from your third year of life.
A three year old is practically a toddler. Who knows if this child was even potty trained. If this child cannot tell the difference between a truth and a lie then he will be precluded from testimony and his statements will become inadmissible at trial.
This reality is even more worrisome given our knowledge of Mirtha Arias’ estranged relationship with the boy’s father, James Capriotti.
According to news reports, Mirtha Arias filed for and was granted a restraining order after James Capriotti threatened to beat her up in front of witnesses at the Hard Rock Cafe. In her application for the restraining order, Arias stated, “I fear for my life and the lives of my children.”
When Mirtha Arias’ other child woke up the morning of the slashing, he discovered the bloody mess and found his mother unconscious, but still moving. When asked by a 9-1-1 operator what happened, the teenager stated he did not know how his brother and mother got injured but did state that he did not think his mother had hurt herself.
I can assure you that detectives have done and are doing everything they can to get a confession out of Arias. However, the fact that Arias has been Baker Acted presents an interesting issue that may undermine any alleged “confessions” willingly given by Arias.
So far there has been no indication that Arias did slash her son’s throat, but for the statements allegedly given by the three year old to police.
When the three year old said his mommy did this to him, what did he mean? Was he referring to the slashing? Was he referring to something else?
In his toddler mind, was his perception of what mommy did really accurate? If his perception was accurate, what about his memory? If we are to assume that his perception and his memory were both accurate, what about his ability to communicate those things?
The bottom line is that there is no other aspect of life where we would rely on the judgment, perception, memory, or statement of a three year old to make such a serious and important decision. It should be recalled that attempted murder is a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
If you would not rely on a three year old’s statement to perform open heart surgery, then it should not be relied upon to prosecute a criminal case that may land his mother in prison for up to 30 years.
How do we know that James Capriotti is not responsible? Even if Capriotti can prove he was out of state at the time of the offense, how do we know he didn’t send someone to hurt his son and his ex-wife?
Additionally, did police search the house to determine if anything was missing? Was the mother given a full physical examination to determine whether or not she was the victim of a sexual assault? Did the house show signs of forced entry?
Was the home fingerprinted to see if any strange fingerprints were present?
Has the mom made any statements? Has she explained her version of events?
Before justice can be served, a very thorough case investigation must be conducted by Arias’ defense attorney. Hopefully prosecutors will look for additional evidence to prove that Arias is guilty of this crime, rather than base their entire case on the singular statement of a three year old.
At the end of the day, I hope that this family recovers from what has proven to be an utterly horrific event.