Morgan Geyser was asked the question twice.
"Are you competent or incompetent," Judge Michael Bohren said to the 12-year-old in a Waukesha County Courtroom last week during a competency hearing.
Geyser, who is charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide for her role in nearly stabbing a fellow classmate to death, remained silent. Feet and hands shackled and wearing a blue jail jumpsuit with her hair covering half her face, Geyser then looked at her attorney and simply shrugged her shoulders.
While she did not answer the question, two psychiatrists who examined Geyser in the weeks after the May 31 stabbing attack that left the victim fighting for her life, gave revealing testimonies into the mind-set of the Waukesha girl.
According to the criminal complaint filed in June, Geyser said she believed that by stabbing her friend, she would prove herself worthy to a fictitious Internet character named Slender Man.
The two medical experts said she still strongly believes that Slender Man, the horror character she learned about through the Creepypasta Wiki website, is real. She says she communicates telepathically with fictional characters and has "Vulcan mind control" and can speak to the Harry Potter villain, Lord Voldemort. They said Geyser doesn't understand the severity of the situation she is in.
Given these observations, the doctors had previously assessed that Geyser was incompetent to proceed because she would not be able to assist in her defense. On Friday, Aug. 1, Bohren agreed and suspended the court proceedings until medical professionals determine Geyser is competent. Under state statute, becoming competent has to occur within a year.
Geyser will be turned over to the state's Department of Health Services for mental health treatment and could be transferred from the Washington County Detention Center in West Bend — the secure facility in which she has been housed since being charged — to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute.
An update on Geyser will be given to the court after three months of treatment. A status hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 12 at the Waukesha County Courthouse.
"I think we'll have a pretty good picture within 90 days about what the issues are and what the psychiatric functioning is," Geyser's attorney, Anthony Cotton, said after the hearing.
Dr. Brooke Lundbohm, of the Wisconsin Forensic Unit, who interviewed Geyser for about 2.5 hours on June 18 at the detention center, said she believes Geyser "likely will become competent" after growing and developing, more education on the court proceedings and with treatment for an undiagnosed mental disorder.
"I think any place outside of jail is going to be better for her," said Cotton, who spoke with members of the national and local media for about six minutes.
Cotton had wanted, however, the case to continue while Geyser was getting treatment.
"I think it needs to move forward for everybody's sake," Cotton said. "The family feels terrible about what happened to the victim. It's a very sad case for everybody involved. I think it's important that we get the answers as expeditiously as possible."
Bohren denied that request, opting to put the case on hold for now.
Believing in fantasy
While in the detention facility, Lundbohm was told that Geyser had been seen talking to herself and that people were concerned about "inappropriate behavior."
During her interview, Lundbohm said Geyser would "laugh hysterically" and that many of her statements were "quite confusing" as she talked about special powers and her ability to see and hear things that others are not able to.
Lundbohm added that Geyser said she has a "strong bond" with Slender Man, whom she "idolizes." Geyser, who was fidgeting with her shackles during Friday's hearing and was seen staring off at times, also told Lundbohm that she the ability to see unicorns.
Lundbohm and Kenneth Robbins, the doctor hired by the defense to do a competency evaluation who also testified, both said since Geyser was "quite consistent" in her behavior during their interviews and there was nothing to suggest Geyser was malingering — that is, fabricating or exaggerating what she believes.
Robbins said the most significant observation he noticed was that Geyser "looked happy" and "almost giddy at times," despite facing a 65-year prison term if found guilty of the charges.
Robbins added that Geyser told him that she can communicate "telepathically" with fantasy characters, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Robbins said Geyser's "primary concern" was not to anger Slender Man. He said Geyser believed that if she angered Slender Man it would put herself and family in danger.
"It's been going on since her arrest, maybe even before that," Cotton said of her behavior. "It's very clear that she has some belief that these fantasy characters are real, that they exist and communicates with them and has interactions with them."
During cross examination by the state, Lundbohm said Geyser was described as "imaginative" by her parents but also loving and affectionate. Lundbohm said teachers described her as artistically gifted and "quite eccentric" and was given positive reviews.
It was revealed in court that Geyser once brought a mallet to school.
Asked after the hearing for details of that complaint, Cotton said he didn't have any because staff within the Waukesha School District have been instructed to remain silent.
"The school has refused to cooperate with our investigation entirely," Cotton said. "They're not making teachers available. They're not making their staff available. So our ability to ask those people whether concerns were expressed (before the incident) is pretty limited. They sent out a letter to all of their teachers saying don't cooperate with us."
Superintendent Todd Gray denied the assertion that the district hasn't cooperated.
"This attorney is not being truthful with his comments," Gray said. "We have provided the attorneys with all student file information once we received the written release forms from the parents, well prior to this hearing. We did not direct any employee to not cooperate with the defense attorneys either in writing or verbally."
Gray added federal and state laws prohibit teachers or other school personnel from talking about a student's academic or disciplinary information to anyone other than the student's parents.
Judge's other actions
Before the competency hearing, Bohren vacated the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGI) exam that had been ordered at the last court appearance for Geyser. He said doing it now takes away Geyser's constitutional rights and a strategic tactic of the defense.
Bohren had previously stayed the exam after Cotton filed a motion to have the exam stopped, saying it violated his client's Fifth Amendment rights and because no NGI plea has been entered.
The judge also agreed with Cotton on another facet at the Aug. 1 proceedings: on whether to release Geyser's competency reports to the co-defendant.
Joseph Smith Jr., the attorney for Anissa E. Weier, the other 12-year-old suspect charged for her role in the stabbing, requested that Geyser's competency report be turned over to him prior to a preliminary hearing.
Cotton denied that request, saying treatment records are "sensitive information" and confidential.
"We need access to the reports when putting the case in proper context," Smith said. "It's meaningful in presenting a defense."
Smith, who said Geyser's mental status could have played a role in whether Weier could "extricate herself" from the alleged offense, remained in the courtroom during the doctors' testimonies on Geyser's competency.
A preliminary hearing on Sept. 17 and 18 has now been scheduled for Weier, who was wearing a pink shirt with a black long-sleeve shirt over it and black pants. In her previous court proceedings, Weier was wearing a blue jail jumpsuit.
Smith has not asked for a competency evaluation for Weier but has indicated he could at a later date. His top goal, he has said, is to have the case moved to the juvenile court system where the penalty is less severe. That's Cotton's goal as well, but he said the first order is for his client to get treatment.