The saga of Anna L. Tang continues: will she be committed to a mental institution, or can she attempt to lead a normal life? Tang is the mentally ill former Wellesley student who stabbed MIT student Wolfe B. Styke ’10 in October of 2007. She was found not guilty of attempted murder and home invasion at her trial on Wednesday, Dec. 8, because she lacked the capacity to conform her conduct to the requirements of the law.
Just hours after her acquittal, prosecutor Suzanne M. Kontz and defense attorney Robert A. George resumed their battle over her fate. George argued Tang should be permitted to spend the holidays with her mother, who was visiting from China, but Kontz asked the judge to immediately have Tang undergo a mental health evaluation. Kontz prevailed and Tang was sent to the Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health center in Boston that same day.
Similar arguments were reprised at a hearing on December 30, after that evaluation. Both sides and the judge had just received the results of Tang’s evaluation by Dr. Elizabeth Wollheim.
Wollheim’s full evaluation is confidential, but Judge Bruce R. Henry read a portion aloud: “Taking all of the above into careful account, it is my opinion and that of her clinical treatment team that Ms. Tang does not currently pose a danger to herself or others by reason of mental illness.”
A formal commitment hearing is scheduled for January 28 — the question now is what happens to Tang in the meantime.
Kontz asked for Tang to be committed and detained in jail, noting that while Wollheim did not petition the Commonwealth to have Tang commited, “[She] did strongly recommend that there … be structures and conditions that were placed on Ms. Tang. It’s the Commonwealth’s position that the Court can infer that without that highly recommended structure, Ms. Tang would be a danger.”
Kontz also indicated that there was no other mechanism short of commitment or confinement that could be used to maintain such structure.
George argued that Tang should be released, and said the Court could impose any conditions it saw fit to, and that in his reading of the Wollheim report, there was no clinical basis for confinement.
Noting that Tang had been a model probationer, George asked for her to be released and indicated he would agree to the same conditions Tang had prior to the trial. George also said she had received an extension on some of her Boston University coursework through mid-January. Tang took a class in mobile application development in the fall and did work porting an iPhone application to a Android application for a local company.
The judge granted George’s request. Tang was permitted to return to her home in Brighton with a new GPS ankle bracelet and her previous conditions, with the exception of $5,000 cash bail. Tang may not enter Cambridge or be near MIT, and she may only leave home for Court-approved activities in consultation with her probation officer: exercise, doctors visits, and church attendance.
Tang’s next court date is the commitment hearing on Friday, Jan. 28. It’s expected her long-term freedom will be resolved at that hearing.