The Nevada Supreme Court this week denied a bid from Dr. Dipak Desai’s lawyers for a full-blown hearing to determine his competency to stand trial on criminal charges tied to the hepatitis C outbreak.
“Having considered the petition and the state’s answer on behalf of respondents, we conclude that our intervention is not warranted,” the high court said in a two-page order.
The ruling sets the stage for a limited competency hearing to take place before District Judge Kathleen Delaney on Friday.
The Supreme Court also denied a request from Desai’s lead lawyer, Richard Wright, to stay the hearing.
Wright declined to comment Wednesday.
But Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher, who is prosecuting the case, said, “We’re prepared to go forward with the hearing.”
A spokeswoman for the judge said the hearing, as of Wednesday, was set to go.
Wright filed a brief with the Supreme Court earlier this month seeking to overturn Delaney’s decision restricting the number of witnesses he could call at the hearing.
Wright is challenging state medical experts who found Desai competent to face the criminal charges.
“The defense will not be able to fully explore the petitioner’s current mental status unless a full and fair hearing is held,” Wright told the Supreme Court in a brief.
Delaney ruled that Wright can only call one medical expert to testify about Desai’s condition since leaving Lake’s Crossing, the state’s secure mental health facility in Sparks. Desai was under observation there for six months between March and September.
In its order, the Supreme Court concluded that Delaney had not abused her discretion in limiting the witnesses at the hearing and did not act in an “arbitrary or capricious manner,” as Wright had argued in his brief.
The parameters Delaney outlined for the hearing also are consistent with Nevada law on this issue, the high court said.
Prosecutors argued that state competency laws don’t allow for witnesses other than the Lake’s Crossing experts who examined Desai.
Delaying the hearing threatened to make it more difficult to meet Desai’s March 12 trial date.
Desai, 61, and two of his nurse anesthetists, Keith Mathahs and Ronald Lakeman, are facing felony charges, including racketeering, insurance fraud and neglect of patients.
The charges revolve around seven people who authorities say were infected with the potentially deadly hepatitis C virus at Desai’s clinics in 2007. Health officials disclosed the outbreak in early 2008.
District Judge Donald Mosley, who is overseeing the complex criminal case, which was filed more than 18 months ago, has made it known he is retiring. But according to a court spokeswoman, he has not set a retirement date yet, making it unclear whether he will be on the bench to preside over the trial.
Contact reporter Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135.