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United States v. Ferguson

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

May 22, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DEWITT FERGUSON, Defendant.

          ORDER REQUIRING THE INVOLUNTARY MEDICATION OF DEFENDANT IN ORDER TO RESTORE COM POTENCY [DE 253]

          WILLIAM MATTHEWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court upon the Government's Motion for an Order Requiring the Involuntary Treatment of the Defendant [DE 253], pursuant to Title 18 United States Code, Section 4241 and Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166, 123 S.Ct. 2174, 156 L.Ed.2d 197 (2003). This Motion was referred to the undersigned by United States District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. [DE 250]. Defendant has been charged with violating the terms of his supervised release. [DE 227]. He is in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, specifically the Federal Medical Center at Butner, North Carolina (FMC Butner), pending his supervised release revocation hearing. Defendant is suffering from mental illness, and has been since he was brought into custody over a year ago. Defendant is mentally incompetent to participate in his revocation hearing and needs antipsychotic medication, which he has refused. For the reasons that follow, this Court authorizes the medical staff at FMC Butner to administer antipsychotic medication to Defendant without his consent for the purpose of restoring his competency.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2004, Defendant was convicted of conspiracy in connection with the acquisition of firearms from a licensed firearms dealer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, making false statements/representations to firearms dealer in connection with the acquisition of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(a)(1)(A) and 2, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On January 4, 2005, United States District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks sentenced Defendant to 180 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

         According to mental health records from the Bureau of Prisons Electronic Medical Record, it appears that Defendant began to display symptoms of a paranoid thought disorder along with increasing hostility and aggression in 2005, while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Coleman ("FCI Coleman"). [DE 242, pg. 3]. Defendant was transferred to the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri on April 10, 2006 for treatment. Id. Defendant was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia. Id. He was involuntarily medicated with anti-psychotic medication (Haldol) on September 29, 2006, and his presentation, hygiene, and speech substantially improved. Id.

         Between September, 2006 and June, 2017, Defendant was transferred seven times between federal correctional institutions and federal medical centers due to his intermittent compliance with mental health treatment and anti-psychotic medication. Id. When compliant with his medication, Defendant was described as stable and cooperative, but when he was not compliant with his medication, he rapidly deteriorated and exhibited odd, unpredictable, and aggressive behaviors. [DE 242, pg. 4]. On December 23, 2013, Defendant was transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts ("FMC Devens") for mental health treatment, where he remained for the duration of his incarceration. Id. Records show that attempts were made to engage Defendant in treatment upon his release, but he consistently refused to sign consent forms adding a mental health requirement to the terms and conditions of his supervised release. Id. Defendant was discharged from FMC Devens on June 15, 2017. Id.

         Defendant's term of supervised release commenced on June 15, 2017. On June 28, 2017, less than two weeks after his release from custody, Defendant was charged with four violations of his supervised release pursuant to a Petition for Warrant or Summons for Offender under Supervision. [DE 227]. Specifically, the Petition alleges that Defendant failed to report to the probation office within 72 hours of his release; failed to report to the probation office as directed; and failed to follow the instructions of the probation officer. Id.

         The Court issued a warrant for Defendant's arrest [DE 228] and he first appeared before this Court on July 21, 2017. [DE 230]. At Defendant's initial appearance, the Court noticed that Defendant displayed bizarre behavior in Court and appeared angry, agitated, and aggressive. [DE 231]. Defendant refused to be placed under oath and did not speak in complete sentences. Id. The Court also noted that the probation officer's Memorandum reflected that Defendant's family members believe he has a mental illness and may be violent. Id. The Government made an ore tenus motion for Defendant to undergo a competency examination. Id. Upon the Government's motion, the Court's own observations, and the information contained in the U.S. Probation Offices' Memorandum to the Court, the Court entered an order requiring that Defendant undergo a competency evaluation and requiring that Defendant be committed to the custody and care of the Attorney General for placement in a suitable facility. Id.

         II. THE COMPETENCY EVALUATION AND HEARING

         Pursuant to the Court's Order [DE 231], Dr. Judith Campbell, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist with the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, issued a forensic report detailing the competency evaluation she conducted on Defendant. [DE 242]. Dr. Campbell advised that Defendant continued to suffer from schizophrenia and that it was highly likely that Defendant would continue to have difficulty working with his attorney until he is properly medicated. [DE 242, pg. 7]. She opined that Defendant was not competent to proceed to trial or make other decisions regarding his legal case. Id. On November 21, 2017, the Court held a competency hearing. [DE 245]. At the hearing, Defendant had to be removed from the courtroom. Id. The Court carefully reviewed and adopted Dr. Campbell's forensic report at the hearing and the Court found by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant was incompetent as defined by 18 U.S.C. §4241(a). Id. The Court ordered that Defendant be hospitalized for treatment for a reasonable period of time, not to exceed four months, for the purpose of restoring Defendant's competency. Id.

         Defendant was transported to FMC Butner on December 21, 2017, and he has remained there since that time. Defendant was evaluated by the staff at Butner for five months. A report dated March 6, 2018, and signed March 20, 2018 was authored by evaluator Evan Du Bois, Psy.D., a forensic psychologist. [DE 249]. Dr. Du Bois opined that Defendant suffers from schizophrenia. Dr. Du Bois opined that Defendant remained incompetent to proceed to trial and that competency is likely to be restored with adherence to a medication regimen. Id. An addendum and appendix, dated and signed April 19, 2018, was authored by evaluator Logan Graddy, M.D., a psychiatrist. [DE 252]. Drs. Du Bois and Graddy discussed their findings in their reports within the framework of the issues set forth in Sell. The reports were admitted into evidence at the subsequent May 21, 2018 Sell hearing under seal. [Government's Exhibits 1 and 2].

         III. THE MAY 21, 2018 SELL HEARING

         The Government filed its Motion for an Order Requiring the Involuntary Treatment of the Defendant in Order to Restore Competency on May 2, 2018. [DE 253]. On May 21, 2018, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on the Motion. Defendant appeared via video conference, but he had to be removed from the conference because he was unable to control himself sufficiently to sit through the hearing. Specifically, Defendant was incoherent, babbling, and cursing loudly. The Court could not conduct a hearing with Defendant present on the video conference as he yelled and interrupted the Court, counsel, and the witnesses during the hearing. Defendant's counsel agreed that Defendant had to be removed from the video conference to complete the hearing. Defendant did not testify at the hearing and appeared wholly unable to do so due to his severe mental condition.

         Drs. Du Bois and Graddy testified via video conference. Dr. Du Bois was recognized as an expert in clinical and forensic psychology. Dr. Graddy was recognized as an expert in forensic psychiatry. Dr. Du Bois testified that Defendant's condition has remained stagnant and has possibly worsened over the past five months. He testified that he believed medication will aid ...


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