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  • Luiza Desouza

Court examines mental health amid assault accusations

Orange County Courthouse, Photo courtesy of the KMA Design Group

Christian Davidson made his initial court appearance on March 21, 2022, at the Orange County Jail, facing two charges. Davidson was accused of aggravated assault and domestic violence battery, and he has a documented history of mental illness.

The alleged incident involved Davidson, who resided with the victim, a male, and was charged with a third-degree felony for reportedly brandishing a knife near the victim's head. Davidson was assigned a temporary public defender, who promptly asked the judge to screen the defendant for mental health. His lawyer showed evidence of multiple cases of mental health issues since 2018, including one case from this year.

This case was filed in Orange County Circuit Courthouse located in Orange, Florida. The judge overseeing this case is Chad K. Alvaro. While the case has not been dismissed, no trial date has been set at this time.

During his court appearance, Davidson revealed that he suffers from "bipolar schizoaffective" disorder but has been without medication for three months due to financial constraints. He has been unemployed for over six months, and unfortunately, this is the case throughout many trials.

In cases like Davidson's, access to social services may play a crucial role in helping individuals in similar situations obtain necessary medication. Mental illness tends to impact various aspects of a person’s life, such as work, interactions with friends, family engagement and personal relationships. In contrast, abuse primarily impacts personal relationships.

According to The Domestic Abuse Hotline, many callers attribute abuse to their partner's mental health condition, including conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, narcissistic personality, borderline personality or antisocial personality. Although this can be a common trait amongst abusers, mental illness is not necessarily the cause of the abuse.

Since abusive behaviors happen primarily in one’s intimate partner relationship, it is common that an abusive partner will not show his or her negative or harmful behaviors with friends, co-workers or family members.

Abuse and mental illness can coincide. There are cases of individuals who have mental illness and are also abusive to their partners. However, it is equally important to recognize that many individuals with mental illness can be healthy and supportive partners, with mental illness not being the root cause of abusive behavior.

A study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2022 found that one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness.

In a March 2015 report titled "The Processing and Treatment of Mentally Ill Persons in the Criminal Justice System: A Scan of Practice and Background Analysis," the Urban Institute stated, "An estimated 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 64 percent of jail inmates have a mental health problem."

Notably, inmates with mental health issues tend to have longer stays in the criminal justice system, with those in Florida's Orange County Jail averaging 51 days, compared to the 26-day average for all inmates. This extended detention is often due to difficulties in understanding and complying with jail and prison rules, as well as the wait for available space in psychiatric hospitals.

Incarcerated individuals with mental illness face challenges in adapting to prison life, with their behaviors stemming from their conditions potentially resulting in rule violations, leading to consequences like solitary confinement or program exclusion. Mental health treatment, including screenings, timely access to mental health providers, access to medications, and recovery support programs, is provided to inmates with mental health needs.

Kaylee Penya, an assistant to Judge Alvaro, confirmed that Davidson is facing charges of domestic abuse. As part of his pre-trial release conditions, Davidson is prohibited from contacting the victim or coming within 500 feet of the victim. He is also collaborating with Social Services to secure the necessary medication and assistance for his substance addiction.

By Luiza Desouza

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