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United States v. Clayton

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

March 13, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff
v.
ALISHA CLAYTON, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON PRELIMINARY HEARING AND DETENTION HEARING

          COLIN LINDSAY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On March 8, 2017, the Court held a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing (the "Hearing") in this matter.

         Larry Fentress appeared for the United States. James Earhart appeared for Alisha Clayton, who was present and in the custody of the United States Marshals Service.

         I. Government's motion for competency evaluation

         At the beginning of the Hearing, the government moved for a custodial competency examination. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 4241(a) & 4247(b). Ms. Clayton objected to a custodial examination, but Ms. Clayton did not object to undergoing a noncustodial examination.

         If the government or a defendant moves for a competency hearing, the Court shall grant the motion if there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant is presently "suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering [her] mentally incompetent to the extent that [she] is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against [her] or to assist properly in [her] defense." Id. § 4241(a). Even if no party moves for a competency hearing, the Court has the duty to inquire as to a defendant's competency "whenever there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial." United States v. Dubrule, 822 F.3d 866, 879(6thCir. May 6, 2016).

         As discussed on the record at the Hearing, the Court observed Ms. Clayton's behavior at the March 7 initial appearance. The Court had misgivings about her competency based on her behavior in Court, her answers under oath at the initial appearance, and based upon discussions with Court staff. Specifically, the Court noted that Ms. Clayton had to be taken to the hospital the morning of her initial appearance, and the initial appearance was rescheduled until Ms. Clayton returned from the hospital that afternoon. The Court also noted that if no party had moved for a competency evaluation at the Hearing, the Court had considered ordering an examination sua sponte. See Dubrule, 822 F.3d at 879.

         At the Hearing, the Court found reasonable cause to believe that Ms. Clayton may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect that renders her mentally incompetent to the extent that she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her or to assist properly in her defense. See 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). The Court granted the government's motion in part to the extent it sought a hearing to determine Ms. Clayton's competency. See id.

         The Court denied the government's motion to the extent that it sought a custodial competency examination. The statute says:

A psychiatric or psychological examination ordered pursuant to this chapter shall be conducted by a licensed or certified psychiatrist or psychologist, or, if the court finds it appropriate, by more than one such examiner. Each examiner shall be designated by the court .... For the purposes of an examination pursuant to an order under section 4241 ... the court may commit the person to be examined for a reasonable period, but not to exceed thirty days ... to the custody of the Attorney General for placement in a suitable facility.

Id. § 4247(b) (emphasis added).

         Thus, the Court may commit a defendant to the Attorney General's custody for a psychiatric or psychological examination for thirty days. But, the statute does not require the Court to order a custodial commitment so that the defendant may undergo an examination. See, e.g., United States v. Law son, 2013 WL 1498893 (E.D. Ky. 2013) ("Because the Defendant is not in pretrial custody, the Court appointed Dr. Paul Anthony Ebben, Psy. D., to conduct a noncustodial competency evaluation."); see also, United States v. Bussell, 2011 WL 2037013 *2 E.D. Tenn. 2011) ("Although the Court has discretion to order that the Defendant be committed for the mental evaluation, the statute does not require an inpatient examination."); cf. United States v. Rayyan, 2016 WL 1746013 *5 (E.D. Mich. 2016) ("Moreover, defendant has already been detained; thus, any restraint on his liberty is less consequential than if he were out on bond.").

         At the Hearing, the Court made clear that it would consider the government's pretrial detention motion separate from its determination as to whether it will order Ms. Clayton to undergo an examination. Accordingly, the Court ordered Ms. Clayton to undergo a noncustodial psychiatric or psychological examination. See 18 U.S.C. § 4141(b). The Court also ordered the parties to confer regarding whether they can agree on a licensed or certified psychiatrist or psychologist to conduct the examination.

         II. Preliminary hearing

         Next, the Court held a preliminary hearing on the criminal complaint. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 5.1. The criminal complaint charges Ms. Clayton with violating 18 U.S.C. ยง 1512(b)(1) for knowingly threatening "a ...


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