Iowa woman accused in racially-motivated hit-and-runs ruled incompetent to stand trial

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POLK COUNTY, Iowa (KWQC) - A Des Moines woman who was charged after two hit-and-runs that officials called racially-motivated has been ruled incompetent to stand trial.

Officials say the driver, 42-year-old Nicole Marie Poole Franklin, of Des Moines, left the road to run the girl over. (KWQC)

According to court records, on Tuesday, 42-year-old Nicole Poole appeared in Polk County District Court to determine whether she was competent to stand trial.

The court ruled that Poole is suffering from a mental disorder which prevents her from understanding the charges and the proceedings, or assisting effectively in her own defense. That means proceedings in the case are suspended until the court finds Poole competent to stand trial.

Because the court considers Poole to pose a danger to "the public peace and safety," she will have to undergo inpatient treatment. She is being sent to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, or another appropriate treatment facility, for treatment that is designed to restore her competency.

The psychiatrist or psychologist treating Poole will have to report to the court within 30 days and every 60 days afterwards regarding Poole's mental disorder and whether it appears she can be restored to competency in a reasonable amount of time.

Poole was charged with attempted murder in December after police say she ran over a 14-year-old girl because she was Mexican. She was also charged with attempted murder for driving over a Des Moines curb on the same day to hit a 12-year-old boy.

Police say on December 9, just before 5 p.m,. a 14-year-old girl was walking on the sidewalk on her way to an activity at a high school when a vehicle hit her. Officials say Poole left the road to run the girl over.

The teenager suffered numerous injuries, and police say Poole left the area without helping the teen.

On Thursday, Dec. 19, police identified the driver, and detectives interviewed her at the Polk County Jail, where she was being held on other charges.

During the interview, police say Franklin not only admitted to hitting the teen but that she did so intentionally. Police say Franklin told them she ran over the girl because she was "a Mexican." Officials say Franklin went on to make numerous derogatory comments about Latinos to investigators.

Des Moines police spokesman Paul Parizek said the 12-year-old boy who Poole hit is black and said at the time that looking at the other two incidents, "the hate-filled motivation is apparent."

According to a separate court filing, because an order for involuntary treatment of mental illness was issued, Poole will no longer be able to possess a firearm. The loss is permanent, unless a petition to restore that right is approved by a district court in Iowa.

A hearing has been scheduled for April 21, 2020 to revisit the issue and determine whether Poole is competent to stand trial at that point.