PASCO - A 38-year-old murder suspect can't assist in her defense because she continues to suffer from migraine headaches without medication and is not getting the requested vegetarian diet in jail, her lawyers said Tuesday.
Tashia L. Stuart is being treated "in a horrible manner" while locked up in the Franklin County jail, defense attorney Matt Rutt told the court. The medical staff won't give Stuart her prescriptions and corrections officials are ignoring her dietary concerns, which include an allergy to meat and meat byproducts, Rutt claimed.
"My client should not be made to suffer, go through practically torture, while she waits for a jury trial," he said.
Stuart is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement.
Her trial is set for May 18, though the court was told Tuesday that she will agree to delay that date.
Stuart has been locked up since March 3, when her mother Judy Hebert was found dead in her Pasco home. Hebert, 58, died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Stuart claimed the two women were arguing about an unauthorized withdrawal of $300 and that her actions were in self-defense.
Rutt and co-counsel Bob Thompson said the court has four options for Stuart: fill the prescribed medications so she can take them; hospitalize her for treatment; release her on her own recognizance so she can regulate her medications at home; or consider a finding of prosecutorial misconduct because the jail is an agent of the state and is violating her rights while behind bars.
Prosecutor Shawn Sant argued it was the first time he was hearing that the jail was not accommodating Stuart's dietary provisions. He also said the defense had not updated him on the medical issue, saying the last he knew, the jail was going to get Stuart's valid prescriptions and fill them using her medical coverage.
"We stay out of what they do," Sant said. He added that the prosecutor's office doesn't want "to be involved in handling medical information for the jail," but can facilitate it.
The defense said Stuart is in pain from her migraines and also typically uses two types of inhalers for asthma, though they claim the jail nurse is refusing to give those to their client because she doesn't believe anything is wrong with Stuart. The lawyers also said the nurse has violated federal privacy rules by calling a treating physician in Clarkston to check into Stuart's medical issues.
Thompson and Rutt said they will write another letter to the jail, hoping this gets addressed soon.
"Apparently it's going on deaf ears, and we don't want that to happen. We want a client that can assist," Thompson said.
Judge Cameron Mitchell said it was the court's intention and understanding that the jail doctor and medical staff would meet Stuart's medical needs and that it would be expedited, "but clearly that has not happened." He said he is frustrated this has not been done, but added that if the defense had a concern during that time, they should have brought it to the prosecutor's attention.
Mitchell said he had hoped for "minimal court involvement" in this. He told Sant to check with jail staff and see if it can't be resolved before Monday.