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United States v. Clark

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

March 30, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ESTHELA CLARK

          ORDER

          MONTE C. RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         ORDER THIS CAUSE is before the Court on the issue of Defendant's competency to proceed with this case. The Court has considered the parties' submissions to date as well as the testimony and arguments from the most recent competency hearing. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that Defendant is competent to participate in all Court proceedings.

         I. Background

         On June 24, 2015, a nine-count Indictment was returned in open Court charging Defendant with encouraging or inducing an alien to enter the United States unlawfully (Count One), bringing an alien to the United States unlawfully (Count Two), alien harboring (Count Three), labor trafficking (Count Four), peonage (Count Five), involuntary servitude (Count Six), forced labor (Count Seven), commercial sex trafficking (Count Eight), and unlawful conduct with respect to documents (Count Nine). (Doc. 18.) Defendant was detained pending trial. (See Doc. 16-2.)

         At defense counsel's request, Stephen J. Bloomfield, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist, issued a report on September 2, 2015, after conducting a psychological evaluation, assessment, and examination of Defendant on September 1, 2015. (Doc. 35.) Dr. Bloomfield opined that Defendant was incompetent to proceed due to a Psychotic Disorder NOS and needed hospitalization as soon as possible because “the object of her delusional belief system [was] the Baker County jail and its staff.” (Id. at 1.)

         On September 24, 2015, the Court held a competency hearing and, on September 29, 2015, on Defendant's motion and the parties' stipulation regarding Dr. Bloomfield's report, the Court committed Defendant for treatment and a psychiatric or psychological examination to the custody of the Attorney General for placement at the Federal Medical Center Carswell (“FMC Carswell”) in Ft. Worth, Texas, for a reasonable period not to exceed 120 days. (Doc. 36.)

         Defendant arrived at FMC Carswell on October 20, 2015. (Doc. 67-1.) Following her competency restoration, on March 1, 2016, Hayley Blackwood, Ph.D., a staff psychologist, Christine Anthony, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist, and Daniel D. Kim, a chief psychologist, submitted a report dated February 28, 2016, opining that Defendant was competent to proceed with the current case. (Id.) Defendant was administered the following psychological testing: Personality Assessment Inventory - Spanish Version (PAI) and Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms - 2nd Edition, Spanish Version (SIRS-2). (Id. at 4.) The diagnostic impression was malingering. (Id. at 15.) The doctors explained:

Despite [Ms. Clark's] self-report of experiencing multiple types of hallucinations, she has displayed no observable signs of psychotic disturbance. Her report of psychotic symptoms has been inconsistent across clinical interviews during the current evaluation period, as well as discrepant from her report during her previous forensic evaluation in September 2015. As discussed throughout this report, behavioral observations and test results from the current evaluation revealed inconsistencies between Ms. Clark's reported symptoms and observations of her behavior, particularly with regard to her reported paranoia and persistent hallucinations. On direct questioning in the context of standardized psychological testing, Ms. Clark consistently endorsed a significant number of obvious signs of severe mental illness, but such problems were notably absent in her day to day functioning and inconsistently endorsed in the context of clinical interviews. As described in this report, Ms. Clark's report of mental health problems, including ongoing perceptual disturbances, is highly atypical. That is, her self-report during clinical interviews indicated her willingness to endorse a pattern of severe and unusual mental health symptoms that are never or rarely seen among individuals with a genuine mental illness. Lastly, although briefly treated with psychotropic medication in the past, Ms. Clark has not taken any psychotropic medication since October 2015. In the presence of a severe mental illness, such as a formal thought disorder or major mood disorder, her mental status would significantly worsen without medication. During the course of the current evaluation, Ms. Clark's mental status remained stable without any treatment with psychotropic medications. Thus, when considered together, the available data in this case strongly support a diagnosis of Malingering. . . . While genuine mental illness and malingering are not mutually exclusive, available data in Ms. Clark's case does not support an additional diagnosis of any mental health disorder.

(Id. at 15-16.)

         The doctors opined that Defendant's prognosis as to her competency to stand trial was good. (Id. at 16.) She had “a good factual and rational understanding of the charges and proceedings against her.” (Id. at 14; see also id. at 16.) The doctors also opined that Defendant's ability to communicate reasonably with her attorney while at the facility and to communicate effectively with the evaluators over the course of multiple interviews “should generalize to future interactions with her attorney” as well. (Id. at 15, 16.) They concluded that Defendant did “not suffer from a mental disease or defect that could significantly interfere with her factual and rational understanding of the legal proceedings [against] her or her ability to communicate with her attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, ” and, as such, was competent to stand trial. (Id. at 16.)

         On June 16, 2016, Dr. Bloomfield conducted another psychological evaluation, assessment, and examination of Defendant at the Baker County Jail. (Doc. 67 at 2.) In a report issued on June 21, 2016, he opined that Defendant was competent to proceed. (Id.) He explained: “[Defendant] has a lucid rational and clear understanding of the charges against her, the possible consequence; how the adversarial system functions. She can assist in her own defense. She can contribute to her own defense.” (Id.) Dr. Bloomfield added:

Since she is presenting with psychotic like symptoms[, ] I explored the possibility of diagnosis and of [sic] malingering. It is my opinion the “voices” are anxiety related and not a full hallucinatory experience. I do not believe she is malingering. She has a tendency to over present symptoms but I believe this is based upon a Histrionic personality style. I do not believe she is malingering.

(Id. at 3.)

         On June 22, 2016, the Court held another competency hearing and received the parties' stipulation regarding Dr. Blackwood's February 28, 2016 report and Dr. Bloomfield's June 21, 2016 report. (Docs. 63, 65.) Based on these reports and the absence of any contrary evidence, on June 29, 2016, the Court entered an Order finding ...


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