United States District Court for the District of Columbia
July 15, 2004.
RUSSELL EUGENE WESTON, JR., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: EMMET SULLIVAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On July 1, 2004, this Court heard testimony and argument with
respect to the government's request to extend the defendant's
involuntary medical treatment for an additional 180-day period
from May 19, 2004, until November 19, 2004, pursuant to
18 U.S.C. § 4241(d). Upon consideration of the uncontroverted testimony of
the government's expert witness, Dr. Sally Johnson, which the
Court credits, and her uncontroverted monthly progress reports,
which the Court also credits, this Court is persuaded by clear
and convincing evidence that the defendant's mental health
condition is improving, although he currently lacks the requisite
capacity to proceed to trial. The Court further credits Dr.
Johnson's opinion that there is a substantial probability that
the defendant will attain the capacity to permit the trial to
proceed within the foreseeable future.
In Jackson v. Indiana, the Supreme Court held that "a person
charged by a State with a criminal offense who is committed
solely on account of his incapacity to proceed at trial cannot be held more than the reasonable period of time necessary to
determine whether there is a substantial probability that he will
attain that capacity in the foreseeable future." 406 U.S. 715,
739 (1972); see 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(2)(A) (defendant may be
treated for a "reasonable period of time" if the court "finds
that there is a substantial probability that within such
additional period of time he will attain the capacity to permit
the trial to proceed"). The Court added "even if it is determined
that the defendant probably soon will be able to stand trial, his
continued commitment must be justified by progress toward that
goal." 406 U.S. at 739.
I. Continued Progress
While defendant argues that "his delusions about his case
remain unchanged," Dr. Johnson identified the critical questions
as (1) "Despite his delusional thinking, with his degree of
investment . . . can he also consider the reality of the
situation recognizing other people don't agree with him and
proceed through the trial working with his attorney to resolve
his case despite his belief set?"; and (2) "[W]hat can he do
versus what is he willing to do?" Tr. 5/5/04 at 31; see Def.'s
Supplemental Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law at
5. Dr. Johnson believed that the defendant's mock trial
performance was telling because it demonstrated that when someone other than Dr. Johnson asked him to participate in a
"hypothetical" trial, the defendant "did cooperate and he did
. . . demonstrate that he could". Tr. 5/2/04 at 31-32.
After the mock trial exercise, the group facilitator told Dr.
Johnson that "if I were going to trial, I would hire Mr. Weston
as my attorney." Tr. 5/5/04 at 18. Specifically, the facilitator
reported that Mr. Weston "had actively and successfully
participated" in the mock trial and "showed a good understanding
of the general trial procedure, the role of the jury, the role of
the judge, the role of the defense attorney, the role of the
prosecutor, and [Mr. Weston] was able to think about defenses and
formulate a defense." Id. After noting that Mr. Weston
successfully developed a "technical defense", Dr. Johnson
testified that Mr. Weston's performance in the mock trial was
"probably the biggest step outside of his ability to leave the
seclusion area." Id. at 19.
At the July 1, 2004, Hearing, Dr. Johnson reiterated her
earlier concern that "the issue that he chooses what he is going
to talk about is, in my opinion, as much an issue about whether
he actually has the capacity to talk about something." Tr. 7/1/04
at 21-22. Dr. Johnson also noted that at their joint June 18,
2004, meeting Mr. Weston "was less willing, from my perspective
anyway, to discuss [the delusions] with [Dr. Johnson and defense
counsel] than he had been in previous meetings." Tr. 7/1/04 at 30. Dr. Johnson explained that she "had made an effort
to have him consider a hypothetical situation and asked a series
of questions about what he would do or what he could do, how he
would handle it. And he simply refused to answer those questions
or to be directly involved in that discussion. And yet at the
mock trial . . . he actually demonstrated an ability to think
through those very same issues and to verbalize his thinking, to
demonstrate his understanding." Tr. 7/1/04 at 22.
After a subsequent mock trial exercise where Mr. Weston played
the role of the prosecuting attorney, Dr. Johnson reported that
the group facilitator "found Mr. Weston's performance to be just
as good as it had been in the defense attorney role and indicated
that he was able to give a coherent and appropriate . . . opening
statement, was able to do the examination and cross examinations
and to prepare a closing statement." Id. at 24. Dr. Johnson
also noted that the facilitator thought that Mr. Weston
effectively identified "the flaws in [the mock defendant's] alibi
and those types of issues, so that he was very attentive to the
details of the scenario and able to work within them." Id. at
Dr. Johnson met with the defendant upon his return to Butner
Federal Medical Center on July 6, 2004. Johnson Report 7/8/04 at
3. Mr. Weston refused to discuss the most recent hearing with Dr.
Johnson. Id. Dr. Johnson reported that "[e]ven simple questions such as whether he could hear the evaluator's phone
testimony, were met with his response of `I have the right to
remain silent.'" Id. This, coupled with Dr. Johnson's
observation that the defendant "is very aware that it is
important for him to talk . . . [a]nd he controls that in a
number of different ways by not talking or by only talking when
his attorney is there" suggests that this Court should weigh Mr.
Weston's mock trial performance more heavily than his refusal to
discuss any remaining delusions. Tr. 5/5/04 at 74. The Court
credits Dr. Johnson's testimony that Mr. Weston's participation
in the mock trial was "probably the biggest step outside of his
ability to leave the seclusion area" and finds that progress
toward the goal of competency is continuing.
Further, the Court credits Dr. Johnson's opinion that because
the medical literature indicated that "if you can document that
the person is making continued gains on the medication, . . . the
general accepted clinical standard would be to continue the
medication trial for at least a year." Tr. 5/5/04 at 20; see
also 5/7/04 at 59-60 ("If someone is showing additional
responses, or partial response, . . . but if you don't have a
full remission of symptoms, then you can continue to treat with
the same drug. And with Clozaril at least . . . you can continue
to see additional response."). II. Other Considerations
In determining whether the period of commitment is reasonable,
the Court considers "among other things, the nature of the
offense charged, the likely penalty or range of punishment for
the offense, and the length of time the person has already been
confined." In re Davis, 505 P.2d 1018, 1025 (Cal.), cert.
denied, 414 U.S. 870 (1973); see also Jackson v. Indiana, 406
U.S. at 738 ("[D]ue process requires that the nature and duration
of commitment bear some reasonable relation to the purpose for
which the individual is committed."); Little v. Twomey,
477 F.2d 767, 770 (7th Cir.) ("a `reasonable period of time' must be
to some extent equated with the gravity of the offense
involved"), cert denied, 414 U.S. 846 (1973).
On October 9, 1998, the defendant was charged in a six-count
indictment with the July 24, 1998, murders of two United States
Capitol Police Officers and the attempted murder of a third
officer. On March 6, 2001, this Court authorized the Bureau of
Prisons to involuntarily treat the defendant with anti-psychotic
medication. See 134 F. Supp.2d 115, 116. This decision was
affirmed by the Court of Appeals on July 27, 2001. See
255 F.3d 873, 887 (D.C. Cir. 2001). Following the defendant's unsuccessful
attempt at Supreme Court review, treatment was begun in
late-January 2002. If the defendant is ultimately convicted of
these offenses, the minimum sentence is life in prison. This
Court finds that a six month continuation of medication, resulting in an involuntary medication period of two years and
eleven months, in the face of the gravest of offenses double
homicide of law enforcement officers in the government's place of
business is not unreasonable.
On June 20, 2004, Mr. Weston's weight was recorded at 317
pounds. Johnson Report 7/8/04 at 2. The defendant has gained 70
pounds since he was initially placed at Butner. Tr. 5/7/04 at 37.
A general practioner brought in to evaluate Mr. Weston described
him as "morbidly obese." Id. With regard to this issue, Dr.
Johnson has testified that "the principal contributor in his
weight gain is clearly his medication use. There is no doubt
about that. It is associated with significant weight gain." Tr.
7/1/04 at 26.
However, Dr. Johnson has also testified that the defendant's
"lab work is within normal limits"; he "has not developed any
kind of weight related medical problems"; his "sugar is fine
. . . his lipid profile is within normal limits"; and his "blood
pressure remains normal." Tr. 5/5/04 at 21-22. On July 1, 2004,
Dr. Johnson testified that Mr. Weston's "laboratory studies,
including his glucose and lipids and all, continue to be entirely
within normal limits." Tr. 7/1/04 at 26-27. She noted that "he's
still not demonstrating those conditions like high triglycerides,
onset of diabetes, for example, that we would be monitoring him
for on these medications. He's not developed any of those or
indicated any of those at this point." Id. at 27. While this Court is troubled by the defendant's weight gain on
the anti-psychotic medications, the Court credits Dr. Johnson's
testimony and finds that their continued use remains medically
Therefore, it is by the Court, hereby
ORDERED that the government's request to extend the
defendant's treatment for an additional 180-day period from May
19, 2004, to November 19, 2004, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)
is GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that the monthly progress reports shall continue
through that period; and it is further
ORDERED that the next hearing in this case shall be held on
November 10, 2004, at 10:30 a.m. in Courtroom One.
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