Lau competency hearing in murder case continues

The prosecution of Eric Lau on charges of murdering his gym teacher-neighbor in November 2009 is going into reruns.

Close to 27 months after gym teacher Jamie Erlich was slashed to death inside her Lake Road condominium in Valley Cottage, the issue of whether her neighbor is competent to stand trial and help in his own defense is continuing before state Supreme Court Justice William A. Kelly at the Rockland County Courthouse in New City.

The possibility exists for a second competency hearing. His next court appearance is Wednesday.

After a hearing last April , Kelly sent Lau to an upstate mental health institution for review. After several months,  two psychiatrists found Lau competent. He was later sent back to another state institution by Rockland County mental health officials at the jail.

Two more state psychiatrists recently found Lau competent and felt he was faking the symptons – a view taken by a pyschiatrist for the prosecution last April even  though a  county psychiatrist and psychologist found him incompetent.

The reports were filed with the court on Wednesday.

Lau’s lawyer, Bruce Klein, must decided whether to challenge the latest findings. A  defense psychiatrist will first review the reports and possibly talk with Lau. in the Rockland County jail in New City.

.A prosecution psychiatrists found Lau competent and faking his symptons. Lau doesn’t talk in court unless asked a direct question, standing or sitting hunched over stiffly and staring down or straight ahead.

Lau, who had a history of violence and mental health issues as a youth. Lau also is charged with twice assaulting jail corrections officers.

At right, photos of Eric Lau and Jami Erlich

Steve Lieberman

Steve Lieberman joined The Journal News as an editor in February 1984 and became a reporter during the spring of 1986. He has covered police, courts and legal issues for more than a decade, after reporting on county, town, village and state governments and general issues. He received more than a dozen state awards for writing and reporting. Born and raised in The Bronx, he has lived in Rockland since 1988.