It’s been more than two years since a homeless man was arrested for allegedly beating and attempting to rape a woman in a downtown parking garage, but after a number of delays caused by shifting attorneys, a global pandemic and the defendant’s own behavior, the case saw some progress last week.
The victim in this case, a female in her early 30s, was allegedly attacked by Douglas Dunson Jr., 45, in a Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) parking garage as she was arriving to work June 5, 2018.
She claims Dunson “assaulted, sexually assaulted, tormented and beat” her on the concrete floor that morning during an attack that lasted nearly 30 minutes. She has since filed a lawsuit against RSA and the security agency that oversees its parking garages on Royal and Water streets downtown.
Jail records indicate Dunson was homeless at the time of the attack and was known to local law enforcement. He’d been arrested seven times by the Mobile Police Department (MPD) in the months leading up the incident and was in custody less than 48 hours before the attack occurred.
Dunson was arrested the same day and was quickly denied bond. He’s been in Mobile Metro Jail for two years and 46 days since, and was only formally indicted by a grand jury earlier this year. He now faces charges of attempted rape, assault, rape and sexual abuse in Mobile County Circuit Court.
Early on in the proceedings, Dunson’s previous defense attorney, Ashley Cameron White, gave notice Dunson would be pleading “not guilty by reason of medical/mental disease or defect.” She cited his history of mental illness and asked the court to determine if he was competent to stand trial.
Circuit Judge Jay York ordered Dunson to undergo a mental evaluation at Metro Jail in March, but the process was delayed after Wright withdrew from his case to take a position with Mobile County’s newly established public defender’s office. Then, despite it arguably being in his best interest, Dunson refused to cooperate when examiners attempted to evaluate his mental state at Metro Jail.
During a hearing in June, Dunson’s new attorney, Brian Lockwood, suggested his client might not need a mental evaluation, but said he was still reviewing the “more than 1,000 pages of medical records” he was provided after taking over the case a few days earlier. Prosecutors, on the other hand, pushed for Dunson to be involuntarily committed and transferred to the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa.
York agreed, and ordered Dunson be transferred for an involuntary evaluation during a hearing last week.
“The court was advised the defendant would not cooperate with the evaluation attempted at the Mobile Metro Jail,” he wrote. “Consequently, it is now ordered the defendant be transported to Taylor Harden for an in-patient evaluation of his competency to stand trial and his mental state at the time of the offense.”
As Lagniappe has reported, Dunson has a documented history of mental issues and has gone through involuntary commitment procedures before. Between May 2017 and June 5, 2018, Dunson was booked into Metro Jail a total of 18 times, and on five separate occasions, Metro’s mental health staff attempted to have him involuntarily committed because of his behavior behind bars.
However, all but one of those attempts proved unsuccessful, because most of the offenses Dunson was arrested for were misdemeanors, and as a result, he was often released on his own recognizance before a commitment hearing could take place in front of Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis.
As was the case in his previous stints at the facility, Dunson has had issues with inmates and corrections officers since he was arrested in connection to the downtown attack in 2018. He was charged with first-degree assault last year after jail officials say he “severely beat” another inmate.
Warden Trey Oliver has previously told Lagniappe that members of the jail’s medical staff have tried to have him committed through the Mobile County Probate Court again, since his most recent arrest, but were unable to do so without approval from prosecutors because of his pending charges in state court.
District Attorney Ashley Rich told Lagniappe she couldn’t find any record of the jail seeking to have Dunson committed since his arrest in 2018, but said she would have denied such a request had she seen one. According to her, there have been similar situations where defendants facing serious charges have been released after completing treatment at facilities like EastPointe Hospital, which is run by AltaPointe Health Systems.
“We prefer to go through the circuit court process,” Rich said. “We feel like Taylor Hardin is a better option because it’s secure, and when a defendant has stabilized, they’re transferred directly back to jail.”
After Dunson is evaluated, Rich said, the court will determine if he’s mentally capable of standing trial and whether he was mentally competent when his alleged offenses occurred. She added, even if Dunson is deemed mentally unfit to stand trial, Taylor Hardin could hold him until his mental state stabilizes and then return him to Mobile County to move forward with the criminal proceedings.
If evaluators determine he was not mentally competent at the time of the alleged assault, it could take a traditional jail sentence off the table. However, Rich said, Dunson would likely be kept in custody at a state mental health facility even in that scenario. Dunson’s attorney declined to comment on this report.
As of Tuesday morning, jail records indicate Dunson had not yet been transferred to Taylor Hardin.
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