United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
A. Ingram United States Magistrate Judge
April 4, 2018, the Court conducted a competency hearing in
this matter, per 18 U.S.C. § 4241 and
4247(d). D.E. 32. The hearing followed a motion for
a competency evaluation filed by Defendant's attorney on
January 10, 2018. D.E. 22. The Court granted the motion,
ordered an evaluation in a custodial setting, and Defendant
was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal.
D.E. 24. The Court, upon the required findings, ordered the
psychiatric or psychological examination pursuant to 18
U.S.C. §§ 4241(b). D.E. 26.
Court ordered the examination to be performed at the Federal
Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. D.E. 26. All parties
had access to the Psychiatric Report (“the
Report”) issued by Dr. Allyson N. Wood, Psy.D. D.E. 30.
In the Report, Dr. Wood opined that Defendant is competent
for trial purposes. Id. at 9. After receipt of the
Report, the Court set a hearing (D.E. 29, 31), and the
parties appeared with counsel (D.E. 32). During that hearing,
the parties stipulated to the admissibility of the Report, as
well as to the Report's findings. The parties also waived
introduction of other proof and argument in opposition, and
waived the right to examine or cross-examine the evaluator.
4241 codifies the competency principles of Dusky v.
United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960). Thus, 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”). Section 4247(d) of 18 U.S.C.
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
per section 4241(d) and based on the hearing, 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 section 4241(a). This
framework does not dictate which party bears the burden,
which has led to disagreements among the Circuits. See
United States v. Carter, No. 1:12-CR-29, 2013 WL
6668715, at *11 (E.D. Tenn. Dec. 18, 2013) (compiling
cases). Here, the proof is not in any way
disputed, and the Court need not resolve the burden
allocation question. See Medina v. California, 505
U.S. 427, 449 (1992) (indicating that argument over burden,
in competency context, only matters in “narrow
class” of cases where the proof is “in
stipulated as to both the admissibility and the substance of
the Report. Accordingly, the only proof concerning
Defendant's competency is the expert analysis of Dr.
Wood. The Report reflects personal observation, a review of
Defendant's available medical history and status,
sufficient psychological testing, and a thorough assessment
of Defendant's abilities in light of the applicable
competency standards. The author analyzed Defendant's
history, course of evaluation, and testing performance. Dr.
Wood directly observed Defendant via interviews and subjected
him to a battery of psychological testing. D.E. 30. Dr. Wood
also made contact with the prosecutor and defense counsel.
Id. at 2. The evaluator also secured and reviewed
some legal documents and analyzed records of Defendant's
outgoing phone calls and emails made while he was in
Lexington. Id. at 2.
Report is a thorough and comprehensive assessment of
Defendant's mental and psychiatric condition. Notably:
(1) The Report indicates Defendant “reported a history
of methamphetamine, Suboxone, and Xanax abuse, ”
involving massive amounts of daily use. D.E. 30 at 3. While
in the Laurel County Detention Center, Defendant suffered
“delirium tremens . . . as a result of withdrawal from
the aforementioned substances” and the jail staff
prescribed Risperdal, an antipsychotic, “for
stabilization purposes.” Id.
(2) Defendant “left school in the sixth grade to devote
more hours to work on the farm.” Id. For the
last thirty years, his primary income source has been Social
Security benefits for his “learning disability.”
Id. at 4.
(3) Once in Lexington, Defendant “did not appear to
exhibit any signs or symptoms of acute psychological
distress, and he reported none. Id. He adjusted
“adequately, ” and had no problem following
rules. Id. He communicated coherently with his
daughters through emails and telephone calls, discussing
“financial and personal property affairs.”
Id. He told one daughter, “I'm stable now.
I'm in my right mind and I'm off drugs. I didn't
know where I was when I was strung out on drugs.”
(4) According to the examiner, Defendant “presented as
calm and in good behavioral control” with
“coherent, organized, and goal-directed” thought
processes and verbalizations. Id. at 5. There was
“no evidence of a mood disorder, ” although
Defendant reported he had been bipolar. Id. at 7.
(5) Defendant was diagnosed with borderline-range
intellectual functioning (“mild intellectual
disability”), along with stimulant use disorder, opioid
use disorder, and sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic-use
disorder. Id. He is reported to be at “a high
risk for relapse” into drug use. Id.
(6) Defendant explained that “his difficulties in
communication and recalling information, ” as reported
by his attorney, “were due to ...