Your First Awful Criminal Justice Story of 2012

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

And it really is pretty awful.

Tina Funderburk is a forgotten woman.

The 37-year-old mother from Brooklyn, N.Y., remains in the Hinds County Detention Center, where she has spent much of the last eight years behind bars.

She remains in legal limbo – still charged with murder in the death of her 3-year-old daughter, Reina Russell, but unlikely to ever be tried.

In 2009, Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green ordered Funderburk, who has been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, sent to the State Hospital at Whitfield unit for those determined to be criminally insane, but after treatment, Whitfield officials returned her.

“This poor woman diagnosed as having psychosis and delusions is languishing in jail?” said Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project. “That seems needlessly cruel.”

Angela Ladner, executive director for the Mississippi Psychiatric Association, said the situation needs to be corrected. “You don’t put mentally ill people in jail,” she said. “You get them medical treatment.”

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said he is open to negotiations with the defense. Until that happens, “we cannot override a court’s order,” he said.

Stanley Wesley, who has visited Funderburk in jail, said she has already served twice as much time as then-District Attorney Faye Peterson offered in a plea bargain – four years for child endangerment.

Funderburk didn’t take the deal, insisting she never killed her child, he said.

Funderburk is severely schizophrenic. At the very least, she appears to have abandoned her daughter while traveling through Mississippi, while in the middle of a schizophrenic episode.But even if she had killed the girl, it doesn’t excuse locking a severely mentally ill woman up for eight years, without treatment, without so much as a trial.

If you’re wondering, yes, Steven Hayne was involved. Based on the girl’s remains, he determined her death was a homicide. Other doctors found insufficient evidence for that conclusion.

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6 Responses to “Your First Awful Criminal Justice Story of 2012”

  1. #1 |  Stephen | 

    Apparently she belongs in a mental hospital but not jail. She doesn’t seem like somebody that should be free unless treatment gets her back to something close to normal. I’m sure jail has made her worse when she should have been getting help to make her better.

  2. #2 |  Nick | 

    What is truly amazing, are the somewhat racial comments. Somewhat.

  3. #3 |  Alan Kellogg | 

    What were her lawyers doing?

  4. #4 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    The State: All the authority, none of the responsibility.

  5. #5 |  Al V | 

    This is yet another example someone dying because this country does not have an even a shadow of a mental health system. She should be in a hospital or other supervised facility. Jails are not the correct place for the mentally ill.

  6. #6 |  Inkberrow | 

    The delay in disposition is apparently a function of uncertainty concerning Funderburk’s competency to proceed. If she’s incompetent without prospect of regaining competency, no “treatment” will make a whit of difference. The article hints at this conclusion, yet reports that Funderburk at one point rejected a plea bargain, which no incompetent can or should do. Hardly “forgotten”, Funderburk herself as well as the other principals in the case have been analyzing, bargaining, and strategizing based on the evolving implications of various assessments of her competency to proceed as well as her culpability in the alleged crime.