A Centennial man accused of killing his mother and then dismembering her body has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
However, a court order requiring Ari Misha Liggett to cooperate with state-appointed mental-health experts may compromise his constitutional rights, according to his attorney.
Liggett, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his mother, 56-year-old Beverly Liggett. He appeared July 15 in an Arapahoe County courtroom before Judge William B. Sylvester, who accepted his plea and ordered the former University of Colorado student to undergo further mental-health testing.
Sylvester laid out a 23-point advisement to Liggett and his attorney, Jennifer Ahnstedt, detailing the conditions and consequences of his plea.
Ahnstedt argued that some of the stipulations issued by the court in the document may be unconstitutional.
Specifically, she points to what she claims is a conflict between her client’s right to assert the Fifth Amendment and the court’s demand that Liggett answer questions and cooperate fully with mental-health professionals.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Sugioka objected, insisting that the statutory definition of “non-cooperation” was “not that difficult.”
Ahnstedt asked the court for a separate hearing to wrangle with the issues before Liggett would be obligated to undergo the 60-day evaluation.
“Once the evaluation is complete, the statute comes into play and we’ve lost the opportunity, if desired, to assert the Fifth Amendment,” she said.
The court-ordered mental-health evaluation may help determine whether Liggett serves time in prison or in a state mental facility, if convicted.
Sylvester, who stepped down in April as the judge in the trial of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, said he shared the concerns raised by the defense, but would not interrupt the evaluation by granting a hearing in the middle of the process.
Sylvester did permit the litigation of such constitutional issues, should they arise, at a later date.
Liggett underwent a competency exam in February at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo and was deemed competent to stand trial.
He is suspected of poisoning his mother and then cutting her body into seven pieces to hide her death so he could use her credit cards.