Finlaw Mental Fitness Ruling to Come Next Week

By Jeremy Coumbes on March 26, 2021 at 8:56am

A Morgan County man’s fitness to stand trial for murder will be decided next week.

21-year-old Dustin Finlaw of Meredosia appeared in a hearing to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial in Morgan County Court yesterday afternoon. Finlaw is facing charges of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 42-year-old Robert L. Utter that occurred in May 2018 in Meredosia.

Finlaw originally was found to be unfit for trial in October 2018 after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, and then later was found fit by the Department of Human Services in October of 2019. After being restored to fitness, Finlaw was moved from Chester Mental Health Center to the Morgan County Jail.

When he was moved, Defense Attorney Tom Piper raised concerns about Finlaw’s fitness changing at the time and asked to have him re-evaluated by a psychiatrist which was denied at that time by Morgan Circuit Judge Chris Reif.

Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll says the hearing has been continued so the court can make a more informed ruling. “The judge, prior to hearing closing arguments and prior to making a ruling, wanted an opportunity to review all of the exhibits that were introduced.”

Finlaw testified that he is in fact fit for trial and that he understands the charges he is facing and the procedures of the court. He asserted that he is no longer experiencing the hallucinations or hearing voices that he experienced in 2018, claiming that he was misdiagnosed and was suffering from sleep deprivation and PTSD from witnessing the stabbing. Finlaw said he had never seen anything so graphic before.

Public Defender Tom Piper argued that Finlaw is still hearing voices and claims to be fit to avoid having to return to the Chester facility where he experienced a seizure from medication he was prescribed and was also attacked by a fellow patient.

Forensic Psychiatrist Terry Killian who evaluated Finalw in 2018 and 2019, testified that he believes Finlaw is still hearing voices and is not fit to adequately assist in his own defense. Killian says a facility such as McFarlan in Springfield is more suited to treat him than the Chester Facility.

A nurse from the Morgan County Detention Center did not testify, after both the prosecution and defense stipulated she would testify that Finlaw takes his prescribed psychotropic medications less than half of the time he is prescribed to take them. Finlaw testified that he takes them “about eighty percent” of the time.

Finlaw also is facing charges of aggravated assault on two police officers, resisting arrest, and obstructing justice by destroying evidence in relation to his later arrest in connection to the homicide. Judge Reif continued the hearing to Tuesday, March 30th at 2:30 pm.