Two mass shootings in recent weeks may have distracted some people from an Oklahoma tragedy that left the entire state shocked and dismayed when four people were killed and dozens more injured at the end of the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade in October.
Adacia Chambers, the driver of the car, has been charged with four counts of second-degree murder and 46 counts of felony assault.
Formal felony charges have been filed, but this horrific case is far from over. Families will continue to grieve and mourn the loss of loved ones, and those who were injured will likely have long recovery periods. If and when a trial begins, the entire ordeal will be replayed over and over in a courtroom and in the media. People will once again want Chambers to pay the price for her actions because in every case like this, someone must be held accountable.
However, Chambers may be a victim of mental illness and the inability to receive help for her disorder. Her attorney claims she is not able to assist in her defense and was mentally ill at the time of the crash. Emotions will inevitably run high on both sides. Chamber’s family has said she is not an alcoholic or addicted to drugs. Police reported she was not drunk when the crash occurred.
So how did this happen? That is the $64 million question that has not been answered, even two months into the investigation.
However, the best advice for those who are suffering and those who want questions answered is to maintain a calm demeanor as police, prosecutors and the defense team continues their investigations. Chambers remains in jail without bond and isn’t going anywhere. According to her attorney and media reports, she wants to know what happened and why her car rammed into a group of parade spectators and caused an enormous amount of carnage.
As evidenced by recent statistics, Oklahoma ranks low in the nation in the amount of resources it allots toward mental illness. Chambers may, in all likelihood, be a victim herself and one of those unfortunate souls who falls between the mental health cracks and hasn’t gotten the treatment she desperately needs.
A forensic psychologist hired by Chambers’ attorney said she presented signs of severe mental illness, which would impair her competency. At one point during the examination, Chambers suggested the psychologist was Jesus and that Jesus died so they could be married. The psychologist reported her emotional state ranged from uncontrollable sobbing to inappropriate hysterical laughter.
Her attorney believes Chambers does not exhibit a steady mental state. Prosecutors had their own psychologist examine Chambers, and a judge has ruled she is competent to stand trial.
Mental illness may or may not have played a role in this case. At this point, it will be a case for the jury to decide if she is bound over for trial. Regardless of this case and its outcome, Oklahoma needs to make mental illness a priority and avoid these tragedies in the future. We must stop the carnage and death.
David Slane is an Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney who has practiced law for more than 20 years and handled murder cases involving a defendant’s mental competency.