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UNITED STATES v. WATTS

December 15, 1981

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Bobby WATTS, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The Court has before it the petitioner's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and the government's opposition thereto. Based on the following, the petitioner's motion will be denied.

 BACKGROUND

 On September 15, 1971, the petitioner was arrested and charged with the ax murder of his aunt, Beatrice Jackson. The petitioner was presented on September 16, 1971, before Magistrate Arthur L. Burnett, *fn1" and entered a plea of not guilty through his attorney, Theodore Christensen, who was with the Public Defender Service at that time and represented petitioner in all proceedings before the trial court. On September 30, 1971, the petitioner was committed to Saint Elizabeth's Hospital pursuant to Title 24, Section 301 of the D.C.Code, as amended August 9, 1955, by order of Judge John J. Sirica. The commitment was for a period not to exceed sixty days for examination by the psychiatric staff to determine whether the petitioner was mentally competent to understand the proceedings against him and to properly assist in the preparation of his defense. The petitioner was indicted on December 14, 1971, in a one-count indictment charging him with a violation of 22 D.C.Code 2401, first degree murder, in the death of Beatrice Jackson. During the time that the petitioner was committed to Saint Elizabeth's, competency hearings were held before this Court on February 23, 1972, *fn2" April 24, 1973, *fn3" February 19, 1974, *fn4" May 22, 1974, *fn5" and August 12, 1974. *fn6" After each of these hearings, the Court determined that the petitioner was not competent for trial. The psychiatrists and psychologists stated that the petitioner was suffering from a mental illness, namely schizophrenia, but that his illness was in remission due to the treatment he had been receiving. A final competency hearing was held on January 19, 1975, after which the Court determined that the petitioner was competent for trial. *fn7"

 A jury was empanelled on March 25, 1975, for the commencement of the petitioner's trial. After an outburst on the witness stand by Onnie Mae Ward, petitioner's cousin who witnessed the murder, the trial continued without the jury *fn8" which resulted in petitioner's conviction for first degree murder. *fn9" Moreover, the Court rejected petitioner's insanity defense which consisted of testimony from four psychiatrists and one psychologist. *fn10"

 The petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 21, 1975, based upon his conviction for first degree murder. The petitioner filed a notice of appeal on the same date. *fn11"

 Attorney Nathan Lewin was appointed to represent the petitioner on his appeal on May 29, 1975. The case was remanded to this Court on March 5, 1976, to make its findings of whether the government had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the petitioner committed the act with the requisite specific intent. In accordance with the mandate of the Court of Appeals, this Court made the following findings in accordance with the rule of United States v. Brawner, 153 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 30-34, 471 F.2d 969, 998-1002 (1972) (en banc) in its June 3, 1976, order:

 
1. The defendant, Bobby Watts, came before this Court for trial on March 25, 1975, on an indictment charging him with one count of first-degree murder. The essential elements of the offense of murder in the first degree are:
 
a. That the defendant inflicted an injury or injuries upon the deceased from which the deceased died;
 
b. That the defendant at the time he so injured the deceased, acted with malice;
 
c. That the defendant, in so injuring the deceased acted after premeditation; and
 
d. That the defendant, in so injuring the deceased, acted after deliberation.
 
2. After a jury was selected, the Government began its case with the testimony of Onnie Ward. During her testimony, both the Government and the defendant waived a trial by jury. The jury was dismissed and the trial continued before the Court.
 
3. During three days of trial, this Court listened carefully to the testimony of all the Government and defense witnesses and examined the exhibits admitted into evidence. The Court also had the exclusive opportunity to observe the demeanor of all the witnesses who testified and to determine the credibility of said witnesses.
 
4. The Court finds the Government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt each and every element of the crime of first-degree murder, as set forth in paragraph one, supra, and specifically finds that the defendant Bobby Watts struck Beatrice Jackson with an ax causing injuries from which the said Beatrice Jackson died; that at the time he struck the deceased with the ax the defendant did so with malice and with the specific intent to kill the deceased; and that the defendant struck the deceased with the ax after premeditation and deliberation.
 
5. Therefore, the Court enters a finding that the defendant is guilty of first-degree murder as charged in the indictment.

 This order also directed the Clerk of the Court to return the record to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction on July 13, 1976, without an opinion.

 In a letter filed November 22, 1978, petitioner requested this Court to reduce his minimum sentence from twenty years to ten years. After writing on petitioner's letter that this request was being "treated as a motion to modify or reduce sentence," the Court denied petitioner's request of November 20, 1978.

 On July 2, 1981, the petitioner filed a form § 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. The petitioner has advanced the usual ground for his § 2255 motion, namely, ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, the petitioner relies on four instances where he was denied effective assistance of counsel:

 1. Trial counsel's failure to present at trial petitioner's history of mental illness, particularly his hospitalization at Clifton Perkins Hospital in Jessup, Maryland;

 2. Trial counsel's failure to impeach or otherwise discredit the government's eyewitness, Onnie Mae Ward, who, according to the petitioner, "has a history (of) de facto prostitution" and "is a mentally incompetent person (who is) morally unfit for reliable testimony;"

 3. Trial counsel's failure to produce a "witness" who would have testified that the petitioner was in another locale at the time of Beatrice Jackson's death; and

 4. Trial counsel's failure to inform the Court of certain evidentiary points at trial, namely, that petitioner's shoes were stained with grease, not blood, and that petitioner's fingerprints were not found on the murder weapon.

 The petitioner also contends that his right to a fair and speedy trial was violated.

 ANALYSIS

 Based upon the following and the Court's assessment of the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses, the entire record herein and the applicable law, the Court finds that the petitioner's allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel are unsupported conclusions and are therefore insufficient to mandate the granting of his § 2255 motion. The Court further finds that the petitioner was not denied any right to a fair and speedy trial. Based upon the facts of this case, the Court will not have a hearing on the petitioner's motion, as the petitioner has not alleged facts which, if true, would entitle him to relief. See United States v. Degand, 614 F.2d 176, 178 (8th Cir. 1980).

 The petitioner first contends that his trial counsel failed to present evidence at the trial of his prior history of mental illness. However, the record is replete with references to his prior mental illness. Dr. Thomas J. Polley, Ph.D., a ...


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