Criminal proceedings against a 30-year-old homeless man accused of five separate unprovoked stabbings in San Francisco this year, three of them on San Francisco Municipal Railways, were suspended indefinitely today after the man’s attorney declared a doubt about his mental competency.

The suspect, Bobby Brown, is facing four counts of attempted murder, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, eight counts of battery and one count of attempted robbery for the alleged attacks.

The attacks include a 41-year-old woman stabbed in the arm on a Muni train May 12; an 11-year-old boy knifed in the stomach on a Muni bus Sept. 1; two women stabbed while walking in the Tenderloin on Nov. 14 and Nov. 26; and a 24-year-old woman stabbed twice with a corkscrew on a Muni train Nov. 30.

Police said the stabbings were all random and unprovoked: the unknown attacker said nothing and then fled. In the Nov. 14 Tenderloin stabbing, he reportedly asked the woman for money before attacking her.

All five victims survived, though the boy nearly bled to death.

Brown was arrested Dec. 1.

But the criminal cases were suspended in San Francisco Superior Court this morning when Brown’s attorney V. Roy Lefcourt requested a hearing on “his ability to assist counsel” and understand the nature of the charges against him. A hearing is scheduled for Monday for the appointment of a psychiatrist or psychologist to evaluate Brown.

Brown, who is being held on $5 million bail, was dressed today in a red jail uniform and listened quietly to the proceedings, his head hung low and his eyes cast downward.

When Judge Donna Little told Brown he was going to a different courtroom for Monday’s proceedings, he responded, “Alright … alright.”

Brown is being held now in a hospital ward due to his status as “a danger to himself and others,” Lefcourt told reporters outside the courtroom.

Lefcourt said he and Brown have “had conversations,” but he wanted to make sure Brown understands what his attorney is saying, and that he can receive the proper medication if necessary.

Lefcourt said last week that Brown told him he was not guilty.

“When you have a serious case like this, you have to be able to help your lawyer,” Lefcourt said today.

“I think he has some serious psychological issues,” he added.

Lefcourt reiterated his stance last week that the identification of his client as the stabbing suspect in the five cases was at issue. He also said he has since spoken with members of Brown’s family.

“They have been in touch with me, and they’re very concerned,” he said.

This morning’s development, though not uncommon, took prosecutors by surprise as to the timing.

District Attorney’s Office spokesman Brian Buckelew said Lefcourt’s request was “unexpected.”

“The people were prepared to arraign Bobby Brown today,” he said, adding that prosecutors have no opinion yet on Brown’s mental competency.

Buckelew said all five victims have identified Brown as their attacker through either live, photo or video lineups.

“I’m confident in all five cases,” he said.

If found incompetent to assist his attorney, Brown will remain in a custodial status–typically in a mental hospital, Buckelew said–until competency is restored and criminal proceedings can resume.

That can take years, if ever.

If convicted, Brown would face life in prison.

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  • bloomsm

    Clarification from the legal department: Brown’s “trial” has not commenced. This proceeding is an arraignment, where the defendant receives the charges against him. This will be followed by a preliminary hearing, in which the judge decides whether the prosecution has sufficient evidence to go to trial. The “trial” only occurs when a jury is empaneled. We are not quite there yet.

    I can also say, from reliable sources, that Brown’s competency will be an issue. He was taken quietly by the SFPD because, allegedly, he had no idea what he was wanted for or why he was being arrested. That is a good clue about his mental state right there. The test will be: does he know what he has done, and does he know right from wrong?

  • bloomsm

    Thanks Appeal for clarifying the header on this.