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United States v. Monroe

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

February 14, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LESLIE MONROE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DENNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This matter is pending for a determination of Defendant Leslie Monroe's competency to stand trial. For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that Monroe is competent for trial purposes.

I.

On September 10, 2013, this matter came before the undersigned for a hearing regarding the issue of Defendant Leslie Monroe's competency pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 4241, 4242(a), and 4247(c) & (d). On May 10, 2013, the defendant filed a motion for an examination to determine his competency to stand trial and his sanity at the time of the alleged offense. [Record No. 18] The government did not oppose the defendant's request. [Record No. 20]

On May 14, 2013, the Court granted the defendant's motion. [Record No. 22] Monroe was ordered to report to the custody of the Attorney General, or his authorized representative, for the placement in an institution designated by the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), where a complete psychological and psychiatric study could be made in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 4247(b). [Record No. 22] Thereafter, on May 20, 2013, the defendant self-reported to the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, ("FMC-Lexington") to begin his period of evaluation. The defendant was examined at FMC-Lexington from May 20, 2013, through August 2, 2013.[1] [Record No. 33] Following this custodial evaluation, two separate forensic reports were issued due to the distinct nature of the questions raised regarding the defendant's psychological functioning. [ See id. ] Specifically, the competency evaluation concerns the defendant's current mental state ("Competency Report"), while the criminal responsibility examination concerns the defendant's mental status only at the time of the alleged offense ("Sanity Report"). All parties had access to the resulting forensic reports issued by clinical psychologist Dr. Dia B. Boutwell, Ph.D. In the reports, Dr. Boutwell concluded that the defendant was both competent for trial purposes and that he was able to appreciate the nature, quality, and wrongfulness of his behavior at the time of his alleged offense. [ Id., pp. 13, 19]

After receiving Dr. Boutwell's reports, the Court held a competency hearing on September 10, 2013, during which Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") David Marye appeared on behalf of the United States, as well as Monroe and his court-appointed attorney Andrew M. Stephens. [ See Record No. 37.] At the hearing, Dr. Boutwell testified consistently with the findings in her report. Although the defendant contested the findings, no other evidence was presented. Nonetheless, the Court granted the defendant's oral motion to generally continue the matter pending notification by the defendant of his intent to present any additional proof or call other witnesses. [ See Record No. 37.]

Monroe subsequently filed a psychological evaluation undertaken in connection with a previous Social Security claim resulting from an alleged mental disability from February 24, 2006. [Record No. 40] Additionally, on October 30, 2013, he filed various medical records and mental health assessment reports from the Cumberland River Comprehensive Care Center ("Cumberland CompCare"). [Record No. 43] Monroe also indicated that he was scheduled to be reevaluated on November 11, 2013, at Cumberland CompCare for a clinical assessment of competency. [Record No. 43] As a result, he again requested an extension of time to submit the results of his reevaluation or to request a hearing. [ Id. ] On November 7, 2013, the Court granted the defendant's motion and extended the deadline until November 29, 2013, to allow the defendant to file a notice of his intentions to submit additional evidence on the issue of his competency (or request a hearing). [Record No. 46]

Despite the Court's extension, Monroe failed to file the results of his competency evaluation from Cumberland CompCare or to request a hearing. As a result, on January 31, 2014, the Court notified the parties that the issue of the defendant's competency stood submitted for review. [Record No. 47]

II.

Section 4241 of Title 18 of the United States Code codifies the competency principles of Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960). To be competent, a defendant must have "sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding" and "a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against him." Dusky, 362 U.S. at 402; see also 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a) (phrasing the test as whether a defendant is "unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense"); United States v. Nichols, 56 F.3d 403, 410 (2nd Cir. 1995) (applying the "two-prong" competency test from Dusky ). Section 4247(d) governs the competency hearing, and assures certain trial-type rights. These include the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to participate in the hearing. See id.; see also 18 U.S.C. § 4241(c) (referring to the hearing procedures outlined in § 4247(d)).

Ultimately, under § 4241(d), a defendant is not competent if, "after the hearing, the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant" meets the incompetency definition of § 4241(a). This framework does not dictate which party bears the burden, which has led to disagreement among the Circuits. Compare United States v. Teague, 956 F.2d 1427, 1431 n.10 (7th Cir. 1992); United States v. Frank, 956 F.2d 872, 875 (9th Cir. 1991); Brown v. Warden, Great Meadow Corr. Facility, 682 F.2d 348, 352 (2nd Cir. 1982); and United States v. Makris, 535 F.2d 899, 906 (5th Cir. 1976) ("There can be no question that in federal criminal cases the government has the burden of proving defendant competent to stand trial at the § 4244 hearing...."), with United States v. Robinson, 404 F.3d 850, 856 (4th Cir. 2005) ("Under federal law the defendant has the burden, by a preponderance of the evidence [to show] that the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense") (internal quotation marks omitted); United States v. Izquierdo, 448 F.3d 1269, 1276 (11th Cir. 2006) ("[T]he relevant competency statute arguably contemplates that the burden will lie with the party making a motion to determine competency."); United States v. Simmons, 993 F.Supp. 168, 170 (W.D.N.Y. 1998) ("The burden to prove a lack of competence is on the defendant.").

The issue of burden allocation only matters when it is the deciding factor. See, e.g., Medina v. California, 505 U.S. 437, 449 (1992) (indicating that argument over burden, in competency context, only matters in "narrow class" of cases where the proof is "in equipoise"). Here, because the record overwhelming supports a finding of competency, the burden allocation issue need not be resolved by the Court.

III.

A. Dr. Boutwell's Competency Report ...


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