Mothers Advocating for America's Mentally Ill

Interview CBS Radio with Rashad Ritchie

Host: Good morning Mrs. Summerlin.

What is Mothers Advocating for Americans Mentally Ill.?

We are a non-profit organization made up of family members and friends of individuals suffering with mentally illness.  We work to provide the mentally ill and their families’ access to medical and legal resources to ensure their wellbeing and the protection of their constitutional rights.   We want to decriminalize mental illness.

Host:  In May of 2013 Candida Summerlin hearing voices sought refuge in the parking lot of the Cobb Sheriff department.  As she attempted to drown the voices out she raised the volume on her radio. 

After 3 hours of seeking refuge in the parking lot, Ms. Summerlin was approached by a deputy sheriff who claims to have asked Ms. Summerlin to lower her music. 

Moments later Ms. Summerlin drove off hitting one deputy and causing a second to dive for cover.  One deputy fractured her leg and the second deputy sustained scrapes and bruises. 

Ms. Summerlin arrested at the scene, was indicted by a Cobb County grand jury in June of 2013 on 13 counts, including two counts each of malice murder, felony murder, hit-and-run, criminal damage to property in the first degree and aggravated assault on a police officer, and one count each of aggravated battery, fleeing from police and interference with government property.

A jury found a Cobb County woman guilty of running down two sheriff’s deputies but ruled she is mentally ill.

On Monday, December 1, 2014, Candida Summerlin was sentenced to 61 years, including 31 years behind bars.

Finding a defendant guilty but mentally ill in Georgia means that the defendant, “ will be given over to the Department of Corrections or the Department of Human Resources, as the mental condition of the defendant may warrant,” according to the laws on the books in the state.

Q1. Ms. Summerlin, you accept that your daughter hit these two deputies but you don’t feel that she was treated fairly correct?  What do you see as the problems with her judgment and her sentence?

A. My daughter is mentally ill, she needs medical attention, not prison, and to sentence her to 61 years is a crime in and of itself.  It is important for people to understand that my daughter, Candida, will receive no medical attention for her illness and thus she is at risk of her condition worsening.

Q2. What is Candida’s mental illness?


Q3. In your opinion what happened?

A. She was failed by the legal system, the medical system, and the judicial system.   There is documentation in all cases that say that each of these systems, probably because of her race, failed miserably to do their jobs.

Q4. When your daughter was on trial what was the finding of the Doctor who evaluated her for the state?

A.  The court appointed identified a doctor to examine but he did not.  My daughter was identified as

Q5. Why do you feel this is important for listeners to understand what happened here?

Q6. Given the current political climate at the time of the trial, this was months after Michael Brown in Fergurson had been killed and the sentencing came after the killing of Eric Gardener, so do you feel that the politics had anything to do with the verdict and the sentencing?

A. I most certainly feel that politics was involved in this case.  From the selection of the judge, to the attitude and disrespect of the District Attorney it was clear that no one cared about my daughter.  The judge was bitter and complained daily about the traffic.  The DA wanted a conviction at any cost.

Q7. I have to ask, because I am sure my listeners are wondering, do you feel that race was a factor?

A.  Yes.  From the very beginning they treated my daughter like she was a homeless Vagrant.  One website even labeled her a thug.  Moreover, there are other cases in Cobb where white defendants were involved in much worse cases involving murder and they were sentenced to receive medical attention.

Ms. Summerlin where is Candida at this time?

Q8.  Mrs. Summerlin, it is also my understanding that this case has an unusual twist as each of the alleged victims of this criminal act received a cash award.  Tell us about that.

A. Yes, each of the deputies received $100,000.00 for their injuries from Candida’s car insurance.  And of course, that money is only given for accidents.  But once the trial started and they had received $200,000.00 plus workers comp and whatever else, they then decided that it was not an accident but a crime.

Q9. Now, we have been talking about Candida Summerlin a mentally ill woman who struck to cobb county deputies with her car and was subsequently given a 61-year sentence.  But on December 30th, 2014 another court in Cobb county gave a different ruling in your daughter’s case – the ruled that Candida Summerlin in spite of the ruling by the Cobb County Superior court is mentally incapable of caring for herself and assigned guardianship to her mother.  What does that mean to you and how will that affect Candida’s appeal?

A. Well what that means is that Candida is not mentally suited to care for herself and more specifically, that because of her mental illness she was incapable of possessing the criminal intent the DA claimed she had when he secured a conviction against her.  Candida is mentally ill.  At 34 the court gave us guardianship because she needs help.

Q10. What is next for Candida?

A. We are preparing for an appeal, which should occur sometime in the spring, hopefully.  And at that time we are hopeful that the appellate court will reverse this ruling and sentencing and get Candida the help she deserves.

Q11. And what are you doing in the meantime?

A. I am campaigning to share Candida’s story in hopes of raising their awareness about mental illness and the dangers in criminalizing mental illness.

We have a website – where people can visit and get information on mental illness, the criminalization of mental illness, resources and opportunities.

I am available to speak at groups.