The language of the Curry case to which petitioner apparently has reference and upon which he predicates his right to independent psychiatric examination is as follows:
'Appellant, an indigent, argues that he is handicapped * * * by not having available to him private psychiatrists to testify as to his present mental condition. We recognize this difficulty and dealt with it, in De Marcos v. Overholser, 78 U.S.App.D.C. 131, 137 F.2d 698, certiorari denied 1943, 320 U.S. 785, 64 S. Ct. 157, 88 L. Ed. 472, and Overholser v. De Marcos, 80 U.S.App.D.C. 91, 149 F.2d 23, certiorari denied 1945, 325 U.S. 889, 65 S. Ct. 1579, 89 L. Ed. 2002. In these cases, we said that 'an inmate of St. Elizabeth's Hospital petitioning for habeas corpus might demand the expert testimony of members of the Commission on Mental Health, or that the Court on its own motion might require it. This gives any inmate of St. Elizabeth's the protection of a diagnosis by independent experts.' See 80 U.S.App.D.C. at page 93, 149 F.2d at page 25. We think this relief is available to all indigent inmates of the hospital including those committed under Section 24-301.'
The above quoted language, considered in the light of petitioner's recent demand that his habeas corpus proceeding be reopened and that he be provided a diagnosis by independent experts, requires that I decide whether the Curry case makes mandatory the utilization of independent psychiatric testimony
whenever such testimony is demanded by an indigent inmate of St. Elizabeth's Hospital seeking to establish his eligibility for release under the Statute.
In my opinion the Curry case does no more than reaffirm the trial court's discretion in seeking the aid of the members of the Mental Health Commission whenever the circumstances of a particular case indicate that independent psychiatric evaulation is necessary. In the first De Marcos case the Court of Appeals clearly recognized '* * * a discretion in the court to require the Commission's expert assistance in a case in which, by reason of his poverty, a petitioner is unable to secure the testimony of other professional witnesses.'
No decision that I have found indicates that the Trial Court's discretion has been limited in any way. Rather, those decisions interpreting the original De Marcos case
reaffirm the Court's discretion in the matter. I see nothing in the Curry case which now requires a holding to the contrary.
In my opinion the appointment of a member of the Mental Health Commission to conduct a mental examination of an applicant for habeas corpus relief is required only when testimony by members of the Hospital Staff leaves some doubt in the mind of the Court as to petitioner's eligibility for release. Such independent testimony might also be required upon a showing that the staff at St. Elizabeth's are incompetent to render a proper opinion in a particular case. In the absence of such a showing, however, this Court, I believe, is justified in relying on the presumption that '* * * the staff of St. Elizabeth's Hospital are competent and that their opinion, based on observation and treatment, is correct.'
Indeed, in so doing, we do no more than does the defendant in a criminal case when he relies on these same Doctors to establish his defense of insanity.
Further, as a practical matter, mandatory examination of applicants for habeas corpus relief by members of the Commission on Mental Health would impose an intolerable burden upon the Mental Health Commission and upon the administration of our insanity laws. The Court of Appeals itself recognized this problem as far back as the second De Marcos case.
One need only review the Habeas Corpus and Mental Health dockets to realize how immense the problems in this field have become since that time. To require the assistance of members of the Commission on Mental Health in almost every Habeas Corpus proceeding might well paralyze the effective operation of that body. Such a result would follow were I to construe the Curry case as petitioner suggests.
Under the facts of the instant case, it is clear that petitioner was not entitled to an independent examination by a member of the Mental Health Commission. His pro se application for the Writ contained nothing which would justify such an examination prior to hearing. The hearing itself and testimony from petitioner's own lips clearly indicates that independent examination was unnecessary. Neither petitioner nor his counsel alleged that any member of the Staff of St. Elizabeth's Hospital was arbitrary or capricious. Petitioner, in fact, generally agreed with the testimony of Dr. Owens. In such circumstances, independent psychiatric examination would have served no useful purpose. Accordingly, petitioner's Motion to reopen the Habeas Corpus proceeding and his Motion for the appointment of an independent psychiatric expert are denied.