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Mental Competency Hearing Set For Alleged Zeta-Jones Stalker

Woman's Lawyer Accuses Actress Of Driving His Client To Attempt Suicide

POSTED: 6:10 am PDT August 10, 2004
UPDATED: 7:02 am PDT August 10, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- Mental competency proceedings are scheduled Tuesday for a woman accused of stalking Catherine Zeta-Jones and making criminal threats against the Oscar-winning actress.

Criminal proceedings were suspended late last month and a mental evaluation ordered after Dawnette Knight's attorney expressed doubt about his client's ability to assist in her own defense amid news of a jailhouse drug overdose.

Knight's lawyer has accused Zeta-Jones of driving his 32-year-old client to "attempt suicide" with a barbiturate overdose.

"What's happened is that this case has turned into Hollywood against Dawnette Knight, and it's not a fair fight," attorney Richard Herman told reporters outside court after the last hearing in the case on July 30.

"What we've seen instead of forgiveness is a campaign of vilification in the media, which is both mean-spirited and vicious," he said, alleging that "what's actually happened is that Catherine Zeta-Jones has driven Dawnette Knight to attempt suicide, and the real blood is on her hands."

Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta has called those statements "inappropriate," saying she was "shocked and outraged that the victim in this case, Catherine Zeta-Jones, is being portrayed in this manner."

Before calling a halt to the criminal case, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg noted that Herman had told reporters the day before that his client was a "normal young woman" who had "no mental problems," and wondered aloud what had changed in 24 hours.

Both sides are due back before Schnegg on Aug. 16, with the preliminary hearing likely to resume in September if Knight is found mentally competent.

Before the criminal case was put on hold, Zeta-Jones testified that threats that she would be killed like President John F. Kennedy, Manson Family victim Sharon Tate or O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, have left a lasting psychological mark.

"This has affected me and it will affect me the rest of my life," the 35-year-old actress testified. "I felt like a ticking time bomb."

Knight remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.

Copyright 2004 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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