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Lytle lawyers want material sealed from trial

‘Extremely provocative’ mental health documents would incite media, prejudice jurors, defense says

Lytle (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
Lytle (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

Lawyers for Jonathan Lytle, the father accused of killing 4-year-old Summer Phelps by viciously abusing her, want to seal “extremely provocative” materials on his mental health problems during his upcoming trial.

Edward Carroll, one of the lawyers from the Spokane County Counsel for Defense team representing Lytle, said in a motion filed Aug. 29 that the material they wish to keep from the public is “of a nature which would not fare favorably towards the client in the media” and would prejudice his case before jurors.

In a hearing Monday, three psychologists will give dueling opinions on whether Lytle is mentally competent to stand trial on homicide-by-abuse charges for the death of his daughter.

Lytle has insisted on a full mental competency hearing before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price. His trial is scheduled to start Oct. 13.

Lytle’s lawyers, in a court memorandum filed Aug. 29, said they’ve had problems communicating with Lytle, who has been in the Spokane County Jail since his arrest March 11, 2007.

“Finally, in February of 2008, defense counsel had had enough, and asked (Spokane psychologist) Dr. Mark Mays to interview Mr. Lytle. Dr. Mays … opined that Mr. Lytle was not competent,” the defense memorandum says.

Lytle was transported to Eastern State Hospital on March 8, 2008, and remained there for 15 days while he was examined by two state mental health experts.

They concluded Lytle was competent to stand trial because he can identify all the players in the criminal justice system.

At a March 9 review hearing, all the lawyers anticipated that Lytle’s competency would be ruled on by Price.

But Lytle demanded a full mental health hearing, which was scheduled for July 17 and then rescheduled for Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, Lytle’s wife, Adriana Lytle, pleaded guilty to charges of homicide by abuse in the same death.

Mays – a Democratic congressional candidate – has submitted a report saying Lytle is incompetent because he suffers from an “adjustment disorder of psychotic proportions.”

The state plans to call psychologist Dr. Randall Strandquist and psychiatrist Dr. Imelda Borromeo from Eastern State to testify that Lytle is competent to be tried although he has a personality disorder with antisocial and narcissistic traits, according to the court documents.

Neither expert report adequately addresses the competency issue, Lytle’s lawyers say.

His serious mental health issues mean Lytle is “absent” as a defendant and he should be treated at a mental institution instead of tried in a court, his public defenders say.

Reach reporter Karen Dorn Steele at (509) 459-5462 or by e-mail at

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