Did Larry Millete kill his beautiful wife Maya in their home on January 7, 2021? That question has not been definitively answered in a court of law, but what is certain is this: Maya Millete, only 39-years-old and the devoted mother of three young children, disappeared seemingly into thin air on January 7, 2021. The investigation revealed Maya wanted a divorce, but her husband, Larry, did not want to let her go. On the day Maya disappeared, she called a divorce attorney. It was the last call she would ever make.
On October 19, 2021, Larry was arrested and charged with Maya’s murder even though her body had not been found. Larry entered a plea of not guilty and contends Maya left voluntarily. Maya’s heartbroken family continues searching desperately for her and as the months pass well beyond a year the haunting questions remain: Where is Maya Millete? And will she ever be found?
Just as Larry’s criminal case was progressing and Maya’s family was awaiting the unveiling of evidence, a new legal motion brought the case to an immediate halt. Only weeks before Larry’s preliminary hearing, which was set to begin on June 27, 2022, with a three-week estimate, Larry’s attorney, Bonita Martinez, filed a motion raising the question of Larry’s mental competency to stand trial.
Was his mental competency truly at issue or was this, as some believed, just a stalling tactic? Whatever way it may be, with the filing of the motion, on June 9, 2022, Judge Dwayne Moring suspended Larry’s criminal proceedings, set a mental evaluation for June 27, 2022, and a competency hearing for August 29, 2022.
With this new development, people asked me what a mental competency hearing would entail, so I decided to do a quick post about this issue. First it must be noted that mental incompetence to stand trial differs from mental insanity. Mental incompetence will only delay a criminal proceeding until the defendant’s mental competence is restored, whereas mental insanity is a complete defense.
Declaring a Doubt of Mental Competency Under Penal Code 1368
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a public and speedy trial by an impartial jury, to understand the nature of criminal proceedings against him or her, and to be afforded the assistance of counsel. But what happens when there is a doubt as to the defendant’s mental competency to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings or to be able to assist in his or her defense? Under California Penal Code Section 1368, a judge or defense counsel may declare a doubt as to the defendant’s competency to stand trial, with proceedings then recessed to address the issue.
This section in relevant part provides:
(a) If, during the pendency of an action and prior to judgment….a doubt arises in the mind of the judge as to the mental competence of the defendant, he or she shall state that doubt in the record and inquire of the attorney for the defendant whether, in the opinion of the attorney, the defendant is mentally competent. If the defendant is not represented by counsel the court shall appoint counsel. At the request of the defendant or his or her counsel or upon its own motion, the court shall recess the proceedings for as long as may be reasonably necessary to permit counsel to confer with the defendant and to form an opinion as to the mental competence of the defendant at that point in time.
(b) If counsel informs the court that he or she believes the defendant is or may be mentally incompetent, the court shall order that the question of the defendant’s mental competence is to be determined in a hearing which is held pursuant to Sections 1368.1 and 1369.
A Penal Code 1368 Competency Hearing
Once the defense attorney raises the doubt as to the mental competency of the defendant, as Bonita Martinez did for Larry Millete, the judge will order a mental health evaluation and set a Penal Code 1368 hearing. The mental health expert will then prepare a written report for the court, which will be reviewed by all sides. In San Diego, two county paid psychiatrists will examine Larry Millete and render a report as to whether they believe Larry is competent to stand trial.
As a mental competence hearing is civil in nature rather than criminal, the legal standard is preponderance of the evidence, meaning there is a greater than 50% chance the claim is true, or another way to say it is that the claim is more likely than not. The defense bears the burden of proof. So, in this case, Larry has the burden to prove it is more likely than not that he is not competent to stand trial.
At the Penal Code 1368 hearing, the mental health report will be provided as evidence, along with testimony of the court appointed experts. Either party may call additional experts or other relevant witnesses.
When is a Defendant Deemed Mentally Competent to Stand Trial?
A defendant is considered mentally competent to stand trial if he/she can do all of the following:
- Understand the nature and purpose of the criminal proceedings against him/her;
- Assist his/her attorney in presenting a defense; and
- Understand his/her own status and condition in the criminal proceedings.
What Rulings Can a Judge Make?
After the hearing, the judge will make a ruling as to the mental competency of the defendant. If the defendant is found to be competent to stand trial, then the case will be returned to the criminal court and the criminal proceedings will be resumed.
If the defendant is determined mentally incompetent to stand trial, all criminal proceedings will be suspended. The defendant will be committed to a state mental hospital or institute for psychiatric treatment until competency can be restored. Once mental competency is restored, the criminal case will resume.
Larry Millete Found Competent to Stand Trial
At the hearing on August 29, 2022, it was reported the experts needed additional time to complete the report. The matter was continued until September 26, 2022. At this hearing, both the prosecution and defense stipulated to the findings of the psychiatrists that Larry Millete was mentally competent to stand trial. The specifics of the evaluation and report are confidential and will not be publicly made known. Judge Cindy Davis reinstated the criminal matter.
Larry’s preliminary hearing, where Judge Dwayne Moring will determine whether Larry will stand trial for murder, is set for January 11, 2023.
Please Help Maya Millete’s Family
Maya’s family is still searching desperately for her. Please help in any way that you can. No family should have to search for all eternity.
About Aleida K. Wahn, Esq.
I am an attorney, award-winning true crime writer, and legal analyst of criminal cases. I cover criminal trials and write stories and books about compelling, gripping, and unforgettable cases that impact our world. I take you into the courtroom in high-profile murder trials, rape cases, crimes of passion, cases involving mental illness, deviant behavior, and more. I have a deep passion for true crime, criminal law, and all aspects of the criminal justice system. I have appeared as an expert on true crime shows, including “48 Hours,” “Snapped,” and “The Dead Files,” and provided legal analysis on high-profile criminal trials on Court TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Fox 5 News, ABC 10 News, and KUSI News. I also create and host shows with the Del Mar Television Producers Group, addressing criminal justice and social issues in recent criminal trials.
I provided my insight and legal analysis on Court TV and the Law & Crime Trial Network of the high-profile trial of former NFL star Kellen Winslow Jr. It was a trial that captured the nation as the heralded ex-football star with fame, fortune, and a famous name stood accused of multiple rapes and other sex crimes involving five women. As the trial delved into shocking facts, complicated legal issues, and unexpected twists and turns, I was there for every minute. After the trial, I wrote a book on the case, going behind the headlines to share the extraordinary details of what happened inside the courtroom. Judging Winslow Jr.: From NFL Star to Serial Rapist? Inside the Shocking Rape Trial of Kellen Boswell Winslow II is now available on Amazon.
I am passionate about telling true crime stories, as these penetrating stories have the power to move us all, while highlighting societal issues which need to be addressed. I have personally seen the human devastation which is present in each trial and believe there is a lesson to be learned in every single case. It is through awareness and examining critical issues society can effect change and even make new laws. To learn more, please visit: https://www.aleidalaw.com.
Read about the gripping and unforgettable trials that I have covered in my latest books: