The Shelby County mother accused of stabbing her four children to death this past Friday is now under observation at the Memphis Mental Health Institute, after appearing in court for the first time Tuesday. In court today 29-year-old Shanythia Gardner did not respond to the judge’s questions. The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office and her attorney remain tight lipped about her mental state.
“It’s devastating, four children lost their lives and of course it’s important not just to our office but to everyone in the community,” said Jennifer Nichols, a prosecutor who appeared in court.
“I’m not going to comment on the facts of the case. As I stated earlier it’s too early to be making comments on a case of this nature,” said Craig Morton, Gardner’s attorney
But Gardner’s silence during the hearing Tuesday, along with the allegations she faces of stabbing each of her four children to death, raises questions about whether she is fit to stand trial, according to Leslie Ballin, a criminal defense attorney not involved in this case.
“The defendant was mute and so there are questions. Can you understand what is going on in the courtroom?” Ballin says.
Even if she is competent enough to stand trial, there are signals her attorneys may plead she is not guilty by reason of insanity.
“It is apparent that her defense is going to be, got to be, not guilty by reason of insanity.” Ballin said.
A Shelby County Sheriff’s spokesperson said Gardner is now getting a full evaluation at a Mid-South mental health facility.
“Part of an evaluation could include just observing and individual’s behavior during the day and what they do. Not only their evaluation on psychological testing or interviews by the doctor, him or herself, but also by support staff reporting to the doctor about whether or not they eat, how they interact in the unit,” Ballin explains.
Gardner is expected to remain at the Memphis Mental Health Institute until her next scheduled court date on Monday