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BRADLEY v. PRESTON

January 31, 1967

Halcott A. BRADLEY, Petitioner,
v.
Paul H. PRESTON, etc., and United States of America, Respondents



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WALSH

 LEONARD P. WALSH, District Judge.

 Petitioner, Halcott A. Bradley, was indicted for murder in the first degree on February 25, 1963. On March 4, 1963, pursuant to an order of the Court signed by the then Chief Judge McGuire, petitioner was referred to the Legal Psychiatric Services for determination of two questions: (1) whether or not petitioner was mentally competent to stand trial; and (2) whether or not petitioner was suffering from a mental disease or defect, and, if so, whether his alleged criminal act was the product of that disease or defect.

 The report of the Legal Psychiatric Services, filed on March 13, 1963, by Dr. Daniel A. Lanham, Chief, showed the psychiatric staff which examined petitioner could answer the first question, but was unable to answer the second. Dr. Lanham's report stated: "as a result of that examination, it is my opinion that the said Halcott A. Bradley is, according to law, able to understand the proceedings against him, competent to stand trial at this time, and able to assist in his own defense." *fn1"

 Subsequently, on March 29, 1963, Chief Judge McGuire signed a second order committing Petitioner to St. Elizabeth's Hospital for a determination of the same two questions submitted to the Legal Psychiatric Services. On June 27, 1963, Dr. Dale C. Cameron, Superintendent of the Hospital, filed his report. Dr. Cameron's staff was able to reach conclusions as to both questions submitted by the second order, but only the answer to the first question, whether or not the accused was mentally competent to stand trial, is germane to the present inquiry. His staff found, "as a result of our examination and observation, it is our opinion that Halcott A. Bradley is mentally competent to stand trial."

 Also, on June 27, 1963, retained counsel representing petitioner filed a Motion to Extend Commitment at St. Elizabeth's Hospital for Further Examination, and to Authorize Employment of Psychiatrists at Government Expense. In both the motion and affidavits filed in support thereof, and particularly in the affidavit of H. Carl Moultrie, the representation is made to the court that the motion should be granted since while petitioner had been at St. Elizabeth's Hospital he had progressed from a position where "he could lend no assistance whatsoever in the preparation of his defense" to a point where "he is now able to assist in the preparation of his defense." On July 12, 1963, this motion was heard and denied by Judge Keech.

 Petitioner was convicted on December 3, 1963 and sentenced to from ten to thirty years on January 10, 1964. On appeal, the conviction was affirmed (No. 18,367, June 15, 1964) by order, and petition for rehearing en banc was denied on September 19, 1964. A pro se application for a writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court on March 1, 1965, 380 U.S. 919, 85 S. Ct. 913, 13 L. Ed. 2d 803. Subsequently this Court reduced sentence to from seven to twenty-one years.

 On August 16, 1965, a motion to vacate sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 was filed. A full hearing was had on November 4, 1965, and the motion was denied.

 On appeal, (No. 19,864, June 30, 1966) the Court of Appeals in a Per Curiam opinion, remanded the matter to this Court for a legal determination of whether or not the petitioner was denied due process of law because of the failure of the Trial Court to raise sua sponte the issue of whether or not the petitioner was incompetent to stand trial because of a persistent amnesiac condition pertaining solely to the period in which the crime was alleged to have been committed. The Appellate Court left open for the Trial Court the question of whether or not this Court could deny the new application "on the ground that the files and records conclusively show that insufficient evidence of mental incompetency was introduced at trial to raise a bona fide doubt requiring the judge sua sponte to order a hearing."

 Petitioner thereafter filed a Motion for Further Proceedings, and the Government filed opposition thereto.

 As the Government points out, no question of mental competency was raised at any time during the trial or sentencing. The only evidence pertaining to competency are the reports from the psychiatric staffs of St. Elizabeth's Hospital and the Legal Psychiatric Services, and these reports are in no way contrary as they relate to mental competency. Both state unequivocally that petitioner knew the nature of the proceedings against him and that he was able to assist in his own defense.

 Undoubtedly the record demonstrates that petitioner knew he was on trial for murder and understood the nature of the proceedings. Inasmuch as this case has been remanded to the Trial Court for determination of whether or not the Trial Judge should have, sua sponte, raised the question of mental competency at time of trial on the basis of amnesia, this Court takes the opportunity of stating that the Court has known the petitioner as a practicing lawyer in the District of Columbia for a number of years, and there was nothing in his actions during the entire course of the trial that would raise any question in the Court's mind as to petitioner's competency to assist Mr. Dodson and Mr. Moultrie, his trial counsel, in the conduct of the case.

 The most conclusive way the Court has of determining whether or not the accused was aiding in his own defense is by the representations of his retained counsel. In the affidavits filed on June 27, 1963, both counsel assert that at that point petitioner had begun to assist them. Subsequently, at the time Judge Keech denied the motion for an extension of time at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, it is noted, counsel for petitioner were of the opinion that if petitioner were returned to the D.C. Jail he would digress and no longer be of assistance to them. Had the defendant regressed to such a point where it affected his ...


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