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U.S. v. WESTON

February 12, 1999

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RUSSELL EUGENE WESTON, JR., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, District Judge.

AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The defendant, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., has been charged in a six-count indictment with the murders of United States Capitol Police Officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson, the attempted murder of United States Capitol Police Officer Douglas B. McMillan, and three counts of carrying and use of a firearm during a crime of violence. The government contends that all of these events occurred on the grounds of the United States Capitol on July 24, 1998, while the victims were engaged in their official duties as federal law enforcement officers. Pending before the Court is the government's motion to compel a videotaped psychiatric examination of the defendant by its expert.

Upon consideration of the motion, opposition and reply thereto, relevant statutory and case law, and the arguments of counsel on January 20, 1999, the Court grants the government's motion to compel a psychiatric examination of the defendant by the government's selected expert. Further, the Court will sua sponte commit the defendant, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4247(b), for an inpatient psychiatric examination by hospital personnel at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Springfield, Missouri. The psychiatric examination by the government's expert shall occur while the defendant is hospitalized at the Springfield, Missouri facility. At this time the Court will deny without prejudice the government's request that the psychiatric examination be videotaped.

BACKGROUND

An evidentiary hearing has been scheduled for April 19, 1999 to enable the Court, as the trier of fact, to determine the mental competency of the defendant. On October 15, 1998, pursuant to a joint request by the government and the defendant, this Court appointed Sally C. Johnson, M.D., Associate Warden Health Services, Mental Health Division, Federal Correctional Institution-Butner, to conduct an outpatient psychiatric examination of the defendant that would assist the Court in determining whether the defendant is competent to stand trial. Dr. Johnson spent approximately twenty hours with the defendant. She personally administered psychiatric and personality tests to him, reviewed numerous medical and mental health records, and interviewed family members. Following her examination, Dr. Johnson submitted a report to the Court and defense counsel under seal. Thereafter, defense counsel consented to a release of the report in unredacted form to the government. Dr. Johnson concluded that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial.

The government has stated that it may challenge Dr. Johnson's opinion. Thus, the government seeks to have its mental health expert examine the defendant so that the expert may offer testimony regarding the issue of the defendant's competence.

DISCUSSION

I.  Legal Standard

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment*fn1 prohibits the criminal prosecution of a defendant who is not competent to stand trial. See Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 394, 113 S.Ct. 2680, 125 L.Ed.2d 321 (1993); Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 172, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975); Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966); United States v. Weissberger, 951 F.2d 392, 395 (D.C. Cir. 1991). "Competency to stand trial at a particular time goes not to the mental condition existing at the time of the alleged offense; it is concerned solely with whether the defendant is then able to confer intelligently with counsel and to competently participate in the trial of his case." United States v. Collins, 491 F.2d 1050, 1053 (5th Cir. 1974). The standard for determining competency is whether the defendant has "sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding-and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him." Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960) (per curiam); see also 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a) (stating that a defendant is considered incompetent if he is "unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense"); Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. at 171, 95 S.Ct. 896 ("It has long been accepted that a person whose mental condition is such that he lacks the capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to consult with counsel, and to assist in preparing his defense may not be subjected to a trial.").

The statute that governs the competency of defendants to stand trial, 18 U.S.C. § 4241 et seq., provides that when there is reasonable cause to do so, the Court shall hold a hearing to determine the mental competency of the defendant. Sections 4241(b) and 4247(b) authorize the court to order one or more mental examinations of the defendant. The psychiatric examination itself is not a hearing and can result in no determination that would bind the accused. See Stone v. United States, 358 F.2d 503, 506 (9th Cir. 1966). The competency determination must be that of the trial judge. "`[I]t is the duty of the District Court to make a specific judicial determination of competence to stand trial, rather than accept psychiatric advice as determinative on this issue.'" United States v. David, 511 F.2d 355, 360 n. 9 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (citations omitted); see also United States v. Rudisill, 2 F. Supp.2d 46, 47 (D.D.C. 1998) ("Under 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a), the Court is . . . required to hold a hearing to determine the competency of a defendant.").

The hearing authorized by the statute is an adversarial proceeding in which the court must determine the defendant's competency by a preponderance of the evidence. See United States v. Weissberger, 951 F.2d at 396. As a result, this hearing must "fully comport with the requirements of Due Process," which means that the defendant has the "right to counsel . . ., the right to testify and to present evidence, the opportunity to confront and cross-examine witnesses as well as the right to present witnesses in his own behalf." Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984 ("Act"), S.Rep. No. 98-225, at 236 (1983), reprinted in 1984 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3182, 3418. The federal competency statute thus contemplates that this evidentiary hearing will include testimony about the defendant's present competency from both government and defense witnesses. Furthermore, "the limitation or expansion of the scope of testimony and the qualifications of participating witnesses lie squarely within the trial judge's discretion" in competency hearings. United States v. Caldwell, 543 F.2d 1333, 1348 (D.C. Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 1087, 96 S.Ct. 877, 47 L.Ed.2d 97 (1976).

II. Motion to Compel Examination by Government Expert

A. Government's Argument

In support of its motion for a competency examination of the defendant by its chosen mental health expert, the government states that since July 1998, at least seven defense experts have had unrestricted access to the defendant, some or all of whom could testify at the hearing. Accordingly, the government argues that "the only effective rebuttal of [the defendant's] psychiatric opinion testimony is contradictory opinion testimony." United States v. Byers, 740 F.2d 1104, 1114 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (plurality opinion) (en banc) (quoting Rollerson v. United States, 343 F.2d 269, 274 (D.C. Cir. 1964)); see also White v. United States, 451 A.2d 848, 853 (D.C. 1982) (noting that the "most effective means of controverting" defendant's proof of insanity defense is "rebuttal testimony of other examining psychiatrists").

Therefore, in order to rebut effectively the psychiatric opinion testimony that will be offered by the defendant during the competency hearing, the government contends that its expert should be allowed to examine the defendant in advance of this hearing. See United States v. Chavis, 476 F.2d 1137, 1143 (D.C. Cir. 1973) ("Particularly with expert witnesses, ample pretrial study by the expert and consultation between lawyer and witness are usually invaluable."). The government claims that if its expert is not allowed to examine the defendant, it will be deprived of any "effective rebuttal" evidence since mere cross-examination of the defendant's experts is inadequate. Moreover, the government argues that if the defendant does not testify at the competency hearing, the government will be unable "to question the defendant about his understanding of the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and his ability to assist in his defense." Mem. P. & A. in Supp. of Gov't's Mot. to Compel a Videotaped Psychiatric Examination of Def., at 6; see also 18 U.S.C. § 4247(d) (stating that defendant "shall be afforded an opportunity to testify") (emphasis added).

B. Defendant's Objections

Although the defendant presents a melange of threshold objections to the government's motion,*fn2 his opposition can be summarized as follows: First, the defendant argues that the Court has no inherent authority to order a psychiatric examination by a government expert since psychiatric examinations are a prerogative of legislation and the government cannot "show a lengthy history of district court orders for multiple psychiatric examinations at the competency stage." Opp'n to Gov't's Mot. to Compel a Videotaped Psychiatric Examination of Def., at 6. Second, the defendant contends that there is no statutory authority under either 18 U.S.C. ยง 4241 or Fed.R.Crim.P. 12.2 for the Court to order more than one psychiatric examination. The defendant distinguishes each of the cases relied upon by the government, arguing that none of the cases support the government's position because no court explicitly orders a mental competency examination by ...


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