United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S COMPETENCY AND COMPETENCY TO
PROCEED PRO SE
M. HOPKINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
CAUSE has come before this Court upon the Joint
Motion by the Government and the defendant for a Mental
Health Evaluation to determine the competency of the
defendant to represent himself pro se and to stand
trial (DE 9) and this Court's Order to determine
competency (DE 10). This Court held hearings on September 1,
2017, and November 13, 2017. After having considered the
motion, the evidence adduced at the hearing, and the
applicable law, this Court makes the following findings of
fact and conclusions of law.
March 23, 2017, the Defendant was charged in an Indictment
with Failing to Register as a Sex Offender. (DE 1). The
Defendant had his initial appearance on 3/24/17 (DEs 4, 38).
At the request of the Defendant on that date this Court held
a Faretta hearing and initially determined that he
executed a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of his
right to counsel and this Court appointed the Federal Public
Defender's Office as standby counsel. (DE 38, pgs 3-14).
When this Court attempted to arraign the Defendant on the
Indictment it became apparent that the Defendant did not
understand the Indictment so this Court revoked the
Defendant's pro se status and appointed
the Federal Public Defender's Office to represent him.
(DE 38, pg. 17). The Defendant was then arraigned.
March 31, 2017, the parties jointly moved to have the
Defendant examined to see if he is competent to proceed to
trial and to represent himself. (DEs 9, 10).
initial competency hearing on 9/1/17, Bureau of Prisons
forensic psychologist Dr. Lisa Feldman and the
Defendant's forensic psychologist testified about their
evaluations of the Defendant and their conclusions. (DE 36).
Dr. Feldman testified that the Defendant was not cooperative
and ultimately refused to provide her with his medical
records of prior mental health evaluations. Dr. Feldman
concluded that the Defendant lacked the ability to assist his
attorney in his own defense. (DE 18, pg. 10). Dr. Fichera,
who was exclusively given access to an attorney who
represented the Defendant in civil commitment proceedings
between 2006 and 2008, concluded that the Defendant was not
suffering from a mental disease or defect that renders him
unable to understand the nature and consequences of the
proceedings against him or to properly assist in his defense,
and that he has the capacity to make an informed decision
regarding self-representation. (DE 26-1).
the Defendant had not provided, and the Government had not
subpoenaed, the Defendant's extensive records of mental
evaluations, this Court continued the 9/1/17 competency
hearing and ordered that the records be produced for an
expedited amended competency evaluation to be completed no
later than October 25, 2017. DE 33. On October 26, 2017 the
Government advised the Court that the records had not been
received in time for the evaluation to be completed so the
competency hearing was continued until 11/13/17. DE 40.
beginning of the continued competency hearing on 11/13/17,
the Government advised the Court that Dr. Feldman had gone on
leave on 10/19/17 for reasons unknown to the AUSA and that
the Government was asking for an additional amount of time
for a different forensic psychologist to conduct a new
evaluation of the Defendant. After hearing additional
testimony from Dr. Fichera, this Court, and the parties,
agreed that there was sufficient evidence to draw conclusions
about the competency of the Defendant.
Frichera testified on 11/13/17 that he had reviewed the
extensive medical records evaluating the Defendant for many
years. There were no records of serious mental impairments,
with the possible exception of an evaluation nearly two
decades years ago that concluded that the Defendant at that
time was suffering from an unspecified psychosis. DE 41-2.
After conducting his additional review Dr. Fichera affirmed
his original evaluation of the Defendant. Id. to
Indiana v. Edwards, 128 S.Ct. 2379 (2008), an
evaluation to determine if the Defendant suffers from a
severe mental illness to the point where he is not competent
to conduct trial proceedings by himself was also ordered. (DE
Competency to stand trial:
Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States
Constitution prohibits the Government from prosecuting
defendants who are incompetent. See U.S. Const.
Amend. V; Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378
(1966). The Eleventh Circuit has stated that
“[f]or a defendant to be competent to stand trial, he
must have ‘sufficient present ability to consult with
his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding
. . . [and] ha[ve] a rational as well as factual
understanding of the proceedings against him.'”
United States v. Rahim, 431 F.3d 753, 760
(11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Medina v.
Singletary, 59 F.3d 1095, 1106 (11th Cir.
1995). See also United States v. Giron-Reyes, 234
F.3d 78, 80 (1st Cir. 2000) (providing that for a
defendant to be found competent to stand trial or plead
guilty, a defendant must be able to understand the
proceedings against him and have sufficient present ability
to consult with his attorney with a reasonable degree of
rational understanding) (citing Godinez v. Moran,
509 U.S. 389, 398 (1993); and, Dusky v. United
States, 362 U.S. 402, 402 (1960)).
relevant statute provides in part,
(d) Determination and disposition.--If,
after the hearing, the court finds by a preponderance of the
evidence 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, ...