The lawyer for a Kansas City, Kan., woman charged in the traffic death of a teenage girl last year is asking for an evaluation to determine if the defendant is competent to stand trial.
Tamika Pledger, a longtime community activist and former commission candidate, is charged in Wyandotte County District Court with involuntary manslaughter after her car struck 17-year-old Tierra Smith, who died later at a hospital.
She also is charged with three counts of aggravated battery for injuries suffered by three other teens in the January 2015 incident in the 1300 block of Troup Avenue in Kansas City, Kan.
During a court appearance last week, attorney Mike Sexton asked to withdraw from the case and Pledger asked to be able to represent herself.
District Judge Mike Russell then began asking Pledger a series of questions required to be asked of any defendant seeking self-representation. But when he asked if she understood what she was charged with, she repeatedly said she did not.
“I don’t stand under the nature of the charges,” she told the judge. “It was an accident, an unfortunate accident.”
Because Pledger would not acknowledge that she understood what she was charged with, the judge denied her request to represent herself and denied Sexton’s motion to withdraw.
Based on that hearing, Sexton this week filed a motion for a competency evaluation.
“The defendant’s ability to understand the charges against her is one of the bases for being competent to stand trial,” Sexton wrote in his motion. “Defendant’s inability to understand what she is charged with raises serious questions about whether she is competent to stand trial.”
At last week’s hearing, Pledger said she thought her attorney was working for prosecutors instead of her. She has filed a “writ” seeking to dismiss the charges for “lack of evidence, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit bribery and perjury.”
“He is trying buy the courts some time for their errors as the judge finds a way to lock me up,” she said in an email Wednesday about Sexton’s motion for competency.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday. Her trial is scheduled to begin April 11.