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Originally published Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Murder suspect said unfit to proceed to trial

A Kent woman who prosecutors say lay in a drunken stupor in her apartment for days while her two youngest children died of starvation, dehydration...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Kent woman who prosecutors say lay in a drunken stupor in her apartment for days while her two youngest children died of starvation, dehydration and neglect has been deemed unfit to stand trial on second-degree murder charges and will undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Marie Robinson was arrested Nov. 14, 2004, and later was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of reckless endangerment for the alleged neglect of a third child, who was found emaciated but alive. After her attorney raised concerns about Robinson's mental competency, she was admitted to Western State Hospital last November for a 15-day observation period, said King County deputy prosecutor Tim Leary.

Doctors there determined Robinson, now 37, was not fit to stand trial, and on Tuesday a King County Superior Court judge ordered Robinson to undergo a 90-day evaluation at Western State to see whether psychiatric drugs and counseling can restore her competency.

Judge Ronald Kessler sealed the doctors' competency report, so Leary couldn't speak in detail about Robinson's mental health. He did say, though, that the competency issue "doesn't have anything to do with diminished capacity" or a possible insanity defense.

"It is not a legal justification for what happened," Leary said. "This just has to do with her current mental state."

Robinson's attorney, Colleen O'Connor, could not be reached for comment.

The state requires that people be able to understand the nature of the proceedings against them and rationally help their attorneys defend them.

At the time of Robinson's arrest, King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said the deaths of 16-month-old Justice Robinson and 6-week-old Raiden Robinson and the severe malnourishment of their older brother was one of the worst cases of child neglect ever to be prosecuted by his office.

Police entered Robinson's apartment at the request of the children's father, who had just been released from the Kitsap County Jail. They found Robinson passed out drunk in her bed with the covers over her head and her two dead children nearby, court records say. The apartment was stocked with food and baby supplies and Robinson's eldest boy, then 2-½, apparently foraged dry spaghetti and rice for days before he was found, the records say.

The surviving boy is in the custody of relatives.

At the time of her arrest, police said, Robinson had a blood-alcohol level of 0.40 percent — five times the state's legal limit for people who are driving. She was found surrounded by 307 beer cans.

The boys' deaths led to Gov. Christine Gregoire signing the Justice and Raiden Act into law in May. The law, which gives social workers greater power to intervene in child-welfare cases where there is a pattern of neglect or where a parent's substance-abuse problems appear to contribute to neglect and abuse, goes into effect in January 2007.

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On Jan. 17, attorneys are to be back in court to ask Kessler to authorize Western State Hospital staff members to forcibly medicate Robinson. But the request is more a formality because there is no indication Robinson has refused medication, Leary said. He added that his access to her health-care records is restricted by federal patient-privacy laws.

Kessler will revisit the issue of Robinson's competency in April. If she is found competent, her case will proceed to trial; if not, she could be ordered to undergo another 90-day evaluation, and potentially a 180-day evaluation at Western State.

"It is a tragic case, and this is just part of the process," Leary said. "We're making sure a defendant's rights are protected, and we're going to err on the side of caution and hope it all works out."

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654

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