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May 4—The top prosecutor in Hillsborough County said his office plans to develop a pool of psychiatrists who will be available to examine defendants when necessary for commitment to the state psychiatric hospital.
County Attorney John Coughlin, a Republican, spoke Monday after media reports over the weekend that his office was unable to find a psychiatrist to examine Amuri Diole, 27, for possible commitment.
Less than a week after his release from jail, Diole allegedly raped a woman at Valley Cemetery.
Coughlin said the prosecutor who handled the case contacted at least five psychiatrists.
"None of them would do it, and time just ran out," Coughlin said.
The president of the New Hampshire Psychiatric Society, Dr. Patrick Ho, said he's not surprised of hearing about troubles in finding psychiatrists. There is a shortage of psychiatrists across the state, and forensic psychiatry, a sub-specialty, would suffer such a shortage too.
Ho said a general psychiatrist would feel uncomfortable working on commitments involving a criminal case.
Diole fell in a legally gray area. In January, a judge received contradictory reports from mental health professionals and deemed Diole incompetent to stand trial. That does not mean he can be automatically freed or committed to a state hospital. State law allows prosecutors to jail an incompetent defendant for up to 90 days while they seek commitment.
Coughlin knows of no other cases in Hillsborough County where a defendant has been released because of an inability to find a psychiatrist.
Coughlin said he has assigned one of his new prosecutors, Norm Lazaro, who is also a cardiologist, the job of developing a pool of psychiatrists, a fee schedule and protocol for timely payments.
Previously, the county had a psychiatrist who was willing to do such examinations, Coughlin said, but a problem developed during the previous county attorney's administration.
"For whatever reason, the one they were using was not getting paid on a timely basis," Coughlin said. Ho said a forensic psychiatrist would find it frustrating if he were not being promptly paid.