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United States v. Duncan

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

December 16, 2016



          Charles R. Simpson III, Senior Judge.

         This matter is before the court on motion of the United States seeking an order that the defendant, Daltonia Duncan (“Duncan”), be involuntarily medicated in order to attempt to restore his mental competency to enable him to to stand trial. (DN 30). For the reasons set forth herein, the motion will be denied.

         The following background facts are taken from the investigative report documenting the incident leading to Duncan's arrest.[1] These facts are recounted herein and taken as true solely for the purpose of addressing the present motion.

         On the afternoon of August 4, 2014 in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, Duncan called city hall concerning an argument he was having with his mother, Sally Robertson. A Hardinsburg officer and a county sheriff went to the home to investigate the call. Robertson met the officers outside and related that she and Duncan were arguing over an unpaid water bill. She stated that Duncan locked himself in his bedroom when the officers arrived. Upon seeing Duncan looking out of the window, the officers encouraged him to come outside. He did so voluntarily. Once outside, Duncan and Robertson began arguing over the water bill again. During the dispute, Robertson informed the officers that Duncan had firearms in his car. When the officers asked for permission to look in his car, Duncan refused.

         Duncan stated that he only had two homemade silencers which were locked in his bedroom closet. Duncan gave verbal permission for the officers to retrieve the silencers. He accompanied them to his room and unlocked the closet door where an officer retrieved a box which contained two homemade silencers. Duncan showed the officers diagrams in a spiral notebook illustrating how he designed and built the silencers. Officers seized the spiral notebook and four marijuana pipes from Duncan's bedroom.

         After returning outside, the officers again sought consent to search Duncan's car for firearms. Duncan's mother indicated that Duncan had taken a black bag with firearms to his car prior to the officers' arrival. Duncan eventually agreed to permit a search of the vehicle, and provided the keys.[2] In the trunk, under the spare tire cover, was a black bag containing two pistols. Duncan was then arrested for two counts of possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. Upon arrival at the detention center, he was also charged with terroristic threatening, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The arresting officer stated that Duncan stated to him that when he got out of jail he was going to get a rifle and shoot all of the police officers and jailers.

         When subsequently interviewed, Robertson stated that Duncan had had the firearms for a while, that he sometimes carried them with him inside the home, and that she would sometimes go into her room and lock the door out of fear of Duncan.

         On May 5, 2015, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Duncan charging one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, charging that he possessed two pistols and ammunition. (DN 1). The indictment recites the foundational prior felony for the charge as a 2008 felony conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Duncan apparently had another felon in possession conviction in 1997, various convictions, both misdemeanor and felony, for terroristic threatening and assault in 1994, 1995, 1996, and a conviction for retaliating against a participant in the legal process in 2009.

         In June of 2015, counsel for the defendant sought a hearing to determine Duncan's mental competency and an order for a psychiatric evaluation addressing competency to stand trial and sanity at the time of the offense. There was no objection by the United States, and the order for evaluation was granted.

         The court received a psychiatric report in October of 2015. The court conducted a competency hearing during which the defendant was afforded an opportunity to testify. Duncan made a statement to the court which he affirmed under oath. The only additional evidence was the forensic evaluation report. The court found by a preponderance of the evidence that Duncan was presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him incompetent to the extent that he was unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense. Duncan was committed for hospitalization and treatment pursuant to statute and to determine whether a substantial probability existed that in the foreseeable future he would attain the capacity to permit proceedings to go forward.

         In July, 2016, the court received a competency restoration study concerning Duncan in which the evaluators determined that he remained incompetent to proceed to trial and opined that involuntary administration of psychotropic medications with further treatment for a four-month period would be necessary to restore Duncan's competency to proceed to trial. Duncan's counsel requested time to obtain state records to determine whether Duncan had been medicated in the past, whether it was effective, and whether he experienced side effects. After some difficulty, counsel was able to reach an accommodation with the Commonwealth, and we are now able to go forward with further evaluating the propriety of involuntarily medicating the defendant.

         The United States filed a motion seeking an order for the involuntary administration of medication pursuant to Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003). (DN 30). Duncan does not believe that he is mentally ill and has refused to take psychotropic medications voluntarily. He objected to the motion for the involuntary administration of medication on the ground that the appropriate circumstances justifying the infringement on personal liberty through involuntary medication authorized by Sell are “rare, ” as acknowledged in the Sell case itself:

[T]he Constitution permits the Government involuntarily to administer antipsychotic drugs to a mentally ill defendant facing serious criminal charges in order to render the defendant competent to stand trial, but only if the treatment is medically appropriate, is substantially unlikely to have side effects that may undermine the fairness of the trial, and, taking account of less intrusive alternatives, is necessary significantly to further important government trial-related interests.

Id. at 179. (DN 31). He urged that there are “special circumstances” that lessen the important governmental interest in prosecution asserted in ...

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