A prominent San Mateo psychiatrist who is accused of sexually molesting seven male patients in the early 1990s suffers from dementia, memory loss and possibly Alzheimer’s, and is too ill to face a retrial, his defense attorney said Thursday.
Opening statements were given in San Mateo County Superior Court on Thursday morning in the competency trial of William Ayres, 79, who has been charged with nine counts of performing lewd acts with seven boys during psychiatric examinations that took place between 1991 and 1996.
Ayres admitted in a 2009 trial that he conducted exams in which boys were naked from the waist down, but said that nothing inappropriate happened. The trial ended in a hung jury when jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the counts.
The District Attorney’s Office decided in August 2009 to retry the case, but criminal proceedings have been suspended to allow a jury to decide whether Ayres remains competent enough to face charges.
In his opening statement Thursday, defense attorney Jonathan McDougall said Ayres’ mental deterioration has made it increasingly difficult for his client to understand his place in the legal proceedings or aid in his own defense.
McDougall said that at times, Ayres is unable to remember his own address, what he ate for dinner or the name of his son.
Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan said court-appointed psychiatrists agree with the defense that Ayres is showing signs of early-onset dementia and mental atrophy, but that the defendant remains well aware of the charges against him and is fit to stand trial.
Testimony in the competency trial began later Thursday morning.