Wilkins v. Ahern

Filing 18

ORDER OF DISMISSAL 4 5 8 9 10 16 (Illston, Susan) (Filed on 6/4/2012)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 KEENAN G. WILKINS a/k/a NERRAH BROWN, ORDER OF DISMISSAL Petitioner, United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 No. C 12-543 SI (pr) v. GREGORY J. AHERN, Sheriff, Respondent. / 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 INTRODUCTION Keenan G. Wilkins a/k/a Nerrah Brown, currently incarcerated in the Alameda County Jail, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Having considered the petition and other filings from Wilkins as well as the status report from respondent, the court determines that this action must be dismissed. The dismissal will be without prejudice to Wilkins filing a new action to challenge any future commitment order or conviction after first exhausting state court remedies. Wilkins' motions to stay the state court proceedings, for a temporary restraining order, and for appointment of counsel will be denied. 23 24 25 26 27 28 BACKGROUND In a criminal case pending against him in Alameda County Superior Court, Wilkins is charged with seven counts of robbery, seven counts of false imprisonment, and one count of making a criminal threat. He also is alleged to have suffered five prior strike convictions. Wilkins has been in custody on these charges since his arrest in March 2007. Although he has 1 been in custody for five years, no criminal trial has occurred due to significant mental 2 competency issues for Wilkins. Wilkins has been energetically challenging his custody. He filed numerous actions in the 4 California courts, including at least two dozen petitions in the California Supreme Court. He 5 also filed four petitions for writ of habeas corpus in federal court. Using his alias, Wilkins filed 6 Nerrah Brown v. Ahern, Case No. C 10-1222 JF, in which he challenged pretrial proceedings. 7 The district court determined that Younger abstention was appropriate and dismissed the petition. 8 Wilkins also filed Nerrah Brown v. Ahern, Case No. 10-5331 JF, in which he asserted claims 9 for denial of his rights to a speedy trial, due process, equal protection, and counsel. The district 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 3 court determined that Younger abstention was appropriate and dismissed the petition. The Ninth 11 Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that the federal court had to abstain from exercising 12 habeas jurisdiction over Wilkins' pretrial petition. Brown v. Ahern, 676 F.3d 899 (9th Cir. 2012). 13 While that appeal was pending, Wilkins filed this action.1 14 In his first amended petition for writ of habeas corpus, Wilkins asserted several claims: 15 (1) his detention for more than a reasonable time needed to determine whether he would attain 16 competency denied him his right to due process and right to be free from cruel and unusual 17 punishment; (2) his right to be free from double jeopardy was violated because the jury 18 deadlocked in his November 2011 competency trial; and (3) he is being denied his right to 19 effective assistance of counsel because the superior court will not accept his assertion of a 20 conflict between him and his attorney, who allegedly (a) caused the double jeopardy problem, 21 (b) allowed the superior court to "unsuspend" proceedings knowing that Wilkins was not 22 obtaining the medications the state mental hospital recommended, and (c) failed to file a 23 1 24 25 26 27 28 Wilkins also filed Wilkins v. Ahern, Case No. 11-5626 SI, in which he challenged an expired 1999 conviction that might impact the sentence that will be imposed if he suffers a conviction on the currently pending charges. After the court dismissed the petition because Wilkins was not in custody on the conviction he sought to challenge, he moved for reconsideration and attempted to change the focus to be a challenge to his current detention. The court denied the motion for reconsideration because the petition clearly challenged the 1999 conviction, and explained that any claim about Willkins' current detention should be asserted in this action (i.e., Case No. C 12-543 SI). See Docket # 14 in Case No. C 11-5626. Wilkins then filed a motion to amend and a first amended petition in this action (i.e., Case No. C 12-543 SI). 2 1 declaration in the California Supreme Court in response to respondent's informal response to that 2 court's inquiry in Wilkins' habeas action. 3 DISCUSSION 4 5 A. The Action Must Be Dismissed Principles of comity and federalism require that this court abstain and not entertain a pre- 7 sentence habeas challenge unless the petitioner shows that: (1) he has exhausted available state 8 judicial remedies, and (2) “special circumstances” warrant federal intervention. Carden v. 9 Montana, 626 F.2d 82, 83-84 (9th Cir. 1980); see Hartley v. Neely, 701 F.2d 780, 781 (9th Cir. 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 6 1983) (pretrial petition raising colorable claim of double jeopardy could be considered after 11 petitioner exhausted state court remedies); Finetti v. Harris, 609 F.2d 594, 597-98 (2d Cir. 1979) 12 (state prisoner seeking to challenge in federal court the constitutionality of the denial of state bail 13 must do so by way of a petition for writ of habeas corpus and must first exhaust state remedies 14 by presenting his claims to the highest state court available for review); see generally Younger 15 v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-54 (1971) (under principles of comity and federalism, a federal court 16 should not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings by granting injunctive or 17 declaratory relief absent extraordinary circumstances); Brown, 676 F.3d at 903 (federal court 18 must abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a habeas petition raising a speedy trial claim; 19 "[t]he only exceptions are 'cases of proven harassment or prosecutions undertaken by state 20 officials in bad faith without hope of obtaining a valid conviction,' or 'in other extraordinary 21 circumstances where irreparable injury can be shown'"). 22 Wilkins' petition for writ of habeas corpus must be dismissed as premature. He has not 23 shown any special circumstances warranting federal intervention in his state criminal case. 24 Although he alleges that there are "exceptional circumstances . . . due to harassment, bad faith, 25 prosecution without hopes of a valid conviction," Docket # 11, p. 7, he fails to provide any facts 26 supporting his conclusory allegations. Wilkins does not discuss the criminal charges pending 27 against him, let alone provide any facts that suggest that the prosecution for the crimes is done 28 to harass him or is being pursued in bad faith. 3 In some situations, a double jeopardy claim might warrant federal court intervention in 2 a pending state criminal case. See Mannes v. Gillespie, 967 F.2d 1310, 1312 (9th Cir. 1992), 3 cert. denied, 506 U.S. 1048 (1993) (federal court may entertain pretrial petition for a writ of 4 habeas corpus that raises a colorable claim of double jeopardy before a final judgment is 5 rendered in a state court). Although some double jeopardy claims may present exceptional 6 circumstances, the double jeopardy claim asserted by Wilkins decidedly does not. Wilkins 7 asserts that the jury's deadlock and subsequent declaration of a mistrial in the November 2011 8 trial on the issue of his competency resulted in a double jeopardy violation. He cites no federal 9 or state authorities for his assertion that there is a double jeopardy problem. The declaration of 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 1 a mistrial upon a deadlocked jury has been "'long considered the classic basis for a proper 11 mistrial'" that does not bar a retrial. Renico v. Lett, 130 S. Ct. 1855, 1862-63 (2010); Arizona 12 v. Washington, 434 U.S. 497, 509 (1978). Nothing alleged by Wilkins suggests that his rights 13 under the Double Jeopardy Clause will be violated by a retrial following a mistrial based on a 14 deadlocked jury at his first competency trial. 15 Wilkins' claim that he is being denied effective assistance of counsel does not warrant 16 pretrial habeas consideration. There are no special circumstances warranting federal review of 17 Wilkins' claims about attorney assistance at this time. 18 Wilkins' claim that his unreasonably long detention violates his right to due process and 19 his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment merits some discussion. Wilkins urges 20 that his detention has no end in sight. He states that he has been put in an untenable position by 21 being restored to competency with medication at the state mental hospital, only to have the 22 medication stopped upon his return to the county jail to face a trial. See Docket # 11, pp. 7-9. 23 He apparently fears being indefinitely bounced back and forth between the jail and mental 24 hospital by repetition of a cycle in which he is determined to be incompetent, then medicated to 25 restore his competence, then deprived of that medication and slipping back into incompetence, 26 at which time the cycle begins again with a new determination of incompetence. This 27 28 4 compelling tale has a problem: it does not accurately describe the current situation.2 According 2 to records submitted by Wilkins, he initially may have been deprived of the psychotropic 3 medications upon his return to the jail in March 2008, but later was given those medications. 4 The record before this court presents a very incomplete chronology of the events in 5 Wilkins' criminal case and related competency proceedings. The record that does exist shows 6 the following: Wilkins was arrested in March 2007 and put in jail. On June 27, 2007, Wilkins 7 was found incompetent to stand trial, and was sent to Atascadero State Hospital. Docket # 12-1, 8 p. 5. On March 10, 2008, Wilkins was returned to the county jail on psychotropic medication, 9 with a recommendation from the Atascadero medical director that he remain on this medication. 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 1 Docket # 1-1, p. 2. Jail officials did not give Wilkins the medication recommended by the 11 Atascadero medical director. This was due to a jail policy against giving inmates seroquel due 12 to the drug's abuse potential and/or because doctors at the jail determined Wilkins did not need 13 the drug. Docket # 1-1, pp. 5-6. Jail doctors eventually gave him the medication. Later, 14 Wilkins' medication was stopped for a new reason: Wilkins was hoarding pills. Respondent 15 described the situation in a March 4, 2011 filing in the California Supreme Court: 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Petitioner's access to psychotropic medications was temporarily suspended on May 5, 2010, when an inspection revealed that he had been stockpiling, rather than taking, those medications. Routine procedures required that petitioner undergo a medical evaluation before his access to the medications could be re-initiated. This was, in part, to ensure proper blood levels of the medications, which is a concern whenever there is evidence of stockpiling. Petitioner was scheduled to undergo such a medical evaluation on May 12, 2010. Petitioner refused that medical evaluation, and he has refused every subsequent attempt to examine him. . . . Thus, access to the medication is within petitioner's control. Docket # 12-1, p. 6; see also Docket # 14-2, pp. 2-3 (Cedergren Declaration describing medication discontinuation on May 5, 2010, and plaintiff's later refusals to participate in 15+ scheduled appointments to evaluate him prior to reinstating or updating the prescribed medications); Docket # 14-5 (doctors' progress notes discussing 2010 discontinuation of 2 Wilkins' statements that psychotropic medications were stopped upon his return to the county jail prompted this court to request a status report and certain documents from respondent. Similar statements by Wilkins apparently caught the attention of the California Supreme Court, as that court required respondent to file an informal response to specific questions about the medication. See Docket # 13 (First Amended Petition, Ex. C). After respondent filed the informal response and petitioner filed a response, the California Supreme Court denied Wilkins' petition. See Docket #s 12-1 to 12-6 (Respondent's Status Report, Exs. 1-3). 5 1 medications). The California Supreme Court denied Wilkins' petition on April 27, 2011. Docket 2 # 12-6. Meanwhile, on February 25, 2011, the Alameda County Superior Court found that 3 Wilkins was competent to stand trial. It is not clear what happened in the trial court during the 4 following eight months. In November - December 2011, a trial was held to determine whether 5 he was incompetent. The jury deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared. A retrial on the 6 incompetency question was scheduled to start on May 29, 2012, although it recently was 7 continued to June 15, 2012. See Docket # 17. Having reviewed the materials, the court concludes that the alleged deprivation of the 9 necessary psychotropic medication upon Wilkins' return to jail is not a continuing problem. Jail 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 8 officials later provided the allegedly necessary medication, although they stopped those 11 medications when evidence developed that Wilkins was not consuming the medication he was 12 being given. The temporary cessation of medications in 2008, and Wilkins' claim of a due 13 process violation based thereon, do not now present an extraordinary circumstance that warrants 14 the kind of interference with state court proceedings that would result from this court 15 entertaining a pretrial habeas petition. Further, Wilkins' worry about possibly indefinite pretrial 16 detention is not realistic today because a competency trial is imminent, and that trial likely will 17 result in a commitment to a state mental hospital or his criminal trial being set. See generally 18 Cal. Penal Code § 1370 (procedures for resolution of questions of mental competence). Wilkins 19 has not shown exceptional circumstances and has not shown that the state criminal court does 20 not afford him "an opportunity to raise his constitutional claims." Younger, 401 U.S. at 49. The 21 court will abstain under Younger, and dismiss this action for writ of habeas corpus. 22 23 B. Miscellaneous Motions 24 Wilkins' request for leave to amend the petition is GRANTED. (Docket # 10.) The first 25 amended petition (Docket # 11) filed by Wilkins has been filed and is the operative pleading in 26 this action. 27 Wilkins's motions for a stay of the state court proceedings and request for a temporary 28 restraining order against a second competency trial are DENIED. (Docket # 4, # 5, # 8.) In 6 1 these motions, he argues that a stay is necessary so that the court can exercise its habeas 2 jurisdiction in a meaningful way. As explained in the preceding section, Younger abstention is 3 appropriate and this action will be dismissed. The same principles of comity and federalism that 4 require dismissal of the pretrial habeas petition also require this court not to interfere with the 5 ongoing state criminal proceedings by granting injunctive relief in the form of a stay or 6 restraining a second competency trial. Wilkins's request for appointment of counsel to represent him in this action is DENIED. 8 (Docket # 9, # 16.) Appointment of counsel is not warranted in this action which is being 9 dismissed today. Wilkins also indicates that he wants new counsel appointed in his state 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 7 criminal case. The federal court does not appoint counsel to represent a litigant in state court. 11 12 CONCLUSION 13 This action is dismissed without prejudice to Wilkins filing a new petition for writ of 14 habeas corpus if he is ever convicted or committed to a state mental hospital, but only after he 15 exhausts state court remedies as to his federal constitutional claims. 16 The clerk shall close the file. 17 IT IS SO ORDERED. 18 DATED: June 4, 2012 SUSAN ILLSTON United States District Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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