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Patton v. United States

October 04, 2001


Before Steadman, Ruiz and Washington, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ruiz, Associate Judge

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Susan R. Winfield, Trial Judge)

Argued January 17, 2001

After a jury trial, Derrick Patton was convicted of aggravated assault (D.C. Code § 22-504.1) and mayhem (§22-506), both while armed (§22-3202), possession of a firearm during a crime of violence (§22-3204 (b)), carrying a pistol without a license (§22-3204(a)), possession of an unregistered firearm (§6-2311(a)), unlawful possession of ammunition (§6-2361 (3)), and escape (§22-2601 (a) (2)). Patton argues on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion in not conducting a Frendak *fn1 inquiry to determine whether he voluntarily and intelligently waived an insanity defense. We agree, and remand the case for a Frendak inquiry.


1. Factual Background

On January 11, 1998, Patton, Juanita Gregory (his mother), and Ms. Gregory's granddaughter, Akia West, were in Ms. Gregory's home, when Ms. Gregory and Akia noticed appellant acting "jumpy" and handling a gun and a knife. At some point, Patton told Akia to "stab him in the neck." When Ms. Gregory and Patton were alone in a room, appellant, without warning, stabbed his mother with a knife. Akia heard her grandmother scream, rushed into the room and found that she had been stabbed in the back of the neck.

Appellant visited his mother at the Washington Hospital Center, where Ms. Gregory was taken following the attack, and after being identified as the perpetrator, he was arrested. Detective John Paprcka interviewed appellant and stated that "he was acting kind of strange in that manner where we would ask him something and he would go off on a different subject." The detective testified that "there was no odor of alcohol and there was no odor of marijuana," but "[appellant] stated he had smoked weed with crack and PCP the night before." The detective was concerned that either appellant had been intoxicated, or there was something mentally wrong with him.

2. Proceedings Bearing on Insanity Defense

A. Pretrial Proceedings

On January 15, 1998, four days after he attacked his mother, appellant's case was called for a preliminary hearing. During the hearing, appellant was acting fidgety, pushing his chair away from the table, and repeatedly looking at the double doors of the courtroom. At one time, while a witness was testifying, he stood up when the judge was talking with the witness. Appellant's strange behavior culminated at the conclusion of the hearing, when he attempted to run from the courtroom and law enforcement officers apprehended him before he could escape.

On April 8, 1998, counsel for appellant filed a motion for a competency examination, noting that appellant: 1) stabbed his mother for no known reason, 2) disrupted the preliminary proceedings, 3) was reported by the District of Columbia Jail as exhibiting paranoid behavior and hearing voices, and 4) made bizarre comments, and was refusing to cooperate with mental health staff. The motion was granted and on April 10, 1998, Dr. Lawrence S. Oliver, Ph. D. of the Commission on Mental Health Services conducted a ten-minute interview with appellant. Appellant, however, refused to cooperate and Dr. Oliver was unable to form an opinion concerning appellant's competency to stand trial. *fn2

When the matter was next called, on April 13, counsel asked for a 45-day evaluation at Saint Elizabeths Hospital to determine whether appellant was competent to stand trial and competent to waive the insanity defense. Counsel rejected the judge's invitation to also subject appellant to a productivity examination at the same time. *fn3 On June 3, 1998, Dr. Oliver conducted a seventy-minute interview of appellant at a mental health unit of the District of Columbia Detention Facility. Dr. Oliver submitted a report on June 4, 1998, *fn4 in which he found that appellant exhibited "severe antisocial characterological traits that included a sense of entitlement, defiant disregard for societal norms, manipulativeness and . . . a lack of empathy for others." He opined, however, that appellant had no mental illness. Dr. Oliver concluded that as there were no mental problems that would substantially impair appellant's capacity to have a factual and rational understanding of the proceedings or to assist his counsel, he was competent to stand trial.

Dr. Oliver also noted that appellant was competent to enter or reject a plea. Dr. Oliver further observed that appellant had no interest in pleading insanity because he did not believe he was insane and because of the indefinite confinement that could result. The trial court ...

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