Hill v. Ayers

Filing 312

ORDER REGARDING COMPETENCY EVALUATIONS. Signed by Judge Claudia Wilken on 4/21/2011. (ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/21/2011)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 OAKLAND DIVISION 11 12 MICHAEL HILL, Case Number 4-94-cv-641-CW Petitioner, 13 ORDER REGARDING COMPETENCY EVALUATIONS v. 14 15 DEATH-PENALTY CASE MICHAEL MARTEL,1 Acting Warden of San Quentin State Prison, 16 Respondent. 17 18 The Court must determine whether Petitioner is competent to 19 assist in his federal habeas proceedings. The Court has reviewed 20 the briefs and psychological evaluations. The Court orders as 21 follows. 22 I 23 In Rohan v. Woodford, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth 24 Circuit held that a condemned prisoner “has a statutory right to 25 competence in his federal habeas proceedings.” 26 (9th Cir. 2003). 334 F.3d 803, 817 “[W]here an incompetent capital habeas 27 28 1 Michael Martel is automatically substituted for Vince Cullen as Respondent pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d). 1 petitioner raises claims that could benefit from his ability to 2 communicate rationally,” federal habeas proceedings “must be 3 stayed until [the petitioner] is competent.” 4 “relevant question” to determine competence in the federal habeas 5 context is “whether [the petitioner] now has the capacity to 6 understand his position and to communicate rationally with 7 counsel.” Id. at 819. The Id. 8 II 9 In the present action, the Court found that there was 10 “substantial evidence” that Petitioner suffered from delusions 11 that rendered him incompetent. 12 CW, 2008 WL 683422, at *1 (N.D. Cal.). 13 directed that Petitioner “be examined by mental-health experts to 14 determine his competence.” 15 Hill v. Ayers, No. 4-94-cv-641Accordingly, the Court Id. at *2. Petitioner’s expert, Dr. Karen Franklin, interviewed 16 Petitioner on November 12, 2008, and issued a forensic 17 psychological evaluation of Petitioner shortly thereafter. 18 No. 286.) 19 diagnostic criteria for Delusional Disorder (Persecutory and 20 Grandiose Types). 21 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: 22 (4th ed. text rev. 2000). 23 relatively innocuous, such as his beliefs that Oprah Winfrey was 24 his girlfriend, that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, and that 25 he owned the Bank of Fat Michael Hill, with 800 branches. 26 No. 286 at 7.) 27 28 (Doc. Dr. Franklin determined that Petitioner met the (Id. at 8); see also Am. Psychiatric Ass’n, DSM-IV-TR Some of Petitioner’s delusions were However, many of his delusional beliefs are inextricably intertwined with his current legal case. He believes that he has won his appeal and been pardoned by the governor. At the present (Doc. 1 2 3 4 5 6 time, he holds this belief with an intense, unshakable degree of conviction. Furthermore, although he states that he could set aside this knowledge and continue to work with his attorneys on an appeal, the basis for appeal that he focuses on is not rational. Rather, it is part of his delusional belief system — that his attorney was intentionally working for the prosecution, concealing exculpatory evidence, and ignoring his successful direct appeal. 7 (Id. at 10.) 8 delusional beliefs,” Dr. Franklin opined that Petitioner was 9 incompetent “due to his mental disorder.” 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 In light of “the centrality and intensity of his (Id.) However, she concluded by recommend[ing] a followup evaluation to determine whether his delusional belief system has subsided or become encapsulated to the point that he is competent to rationally assist his attorney in his appeal. Delusional Disorder often waxes and wanes over time, and indeed this has occurred with [Petitioner] in the past. [Petitioner] could regain his competency without a complete disappearance of his persecutory and grandiose delusions, so long as these beliefs subside in intensity and centrality such that he recovers a factual understanding of his case and a rational ability to assist his attorney on his own behalf. (Id. at 12.) The Court subsequently issued an Order Setting Procedures 21 for Competency Evaluation. 22 order, Respondent’s expert, Dr. Paul Good, interviewed Petitioner 23 on August 18, 2010. 24 Good issued his report on October 14, 2010. 25 (Doc. No. 295.) Pursuant to that (Doc. No. 299 at 3; Docs. Nos. 302–03.) Dr. (Doc. No. 299.) During their interview, Petitioner told Dr. Good “that Oprah 26 was not his girlfriend, that he was not a Nobel Peace Prize 27 winner, and that there was no [B]ank of Michael Hill with 800 28 branches,” and Petitioner even laughed “in acknowledgment of the 1 absurdity of these ideas.” 2 refused to discuss his legal matters in any significant way or 3 even to answer many of the questions posed by Dr. Good despite 4 the efforts of Petitioner’s counsel to have him do so.2 5 7, 10, 11.) 6 that “he was lied to by his attorneys,” (id. at 10), but not 7 “that his attorney is conspiring with the prosecution, concealing 8 exculpatory evidence or ignoring his successful appeal,” (id. at 9 12). 10 (Id. at 8.) However, Petitioner (Id. at Petitioner did indicate that he continued to believe Dr. Good believed that Petitioner’s refusal to discuss 11 “issues which were a matter of public record, and on which his 12 attorney gave him freedom to respond . . . seemed irrational.” 13 (Id.; see also id. at 12–13 (Petitioner’s “resistance to 14 discussing certain issues with me, even after his attorney 15 assured him that it would not jeopardize his appeal, may suggest 16 a substrate of paranoia.”).) 17 [Petitioner] still has paranoid suspicions and that these could 18 become problematic under periods of stress. 19 make fine distinctions is limited and his judgment is adequate 20 but fragile.” 21 paranoia lingered in his mind”).) 22 Dr. Good’s “sense was that [His] capacity to (Id. at 7–8; see also id. at 11 (“a residue of Dr. Good found that “it appears that [Petitioner’s] 23 Delusional disorder is in remission.” 24 stated, “At this point, I do not believe [Petitioner’s] 25 Delusional disorder in remission is substantially affecting his (Id. at 12.) Dr. Good 26 27 28 2 Pursuant to the Court’s Order Setting Procedures for Competency Evaluation, (Doc. No. 295 at 3), one of Petitioner’s attorneys was available on site during Dr. Good’s interview to consult with Petitioner. 1 capacity.” 2 was not completely confident in his findings, he opined that 3 Petitioner had regained his competency. 4 concluded, “his competency will remain fragile.” 5 Indeed, 6 Although Dr. Good “However,” Dr. Good (Id. at 14.) As Dr. Franklin pointed out in her report, Delusional disorders can wax and wane, and thus it is hard to know how [Petitioner] will fare going forward. [Petitioner] is still vulnerable to a decompensation in which his delusional ideas hijack his thinking processes and again make him psychotic. In such a case, his mental disorder would substantially undermine his competency. 7 8 9 10 11 (Id. (quotation marks omitted).) (Id. at 13.) 12 III 13 It is undisputed, and the Court finds, that Petitioner was 14 incompetent when Dr. Franklin interviewed him in 2008. 15 also undisputed, and the Court finds, that Petitioner’s condition 16 improved significantly by the time Dr. Good interviewed him in 17 2010. 18 by 2010. 19 finding that Petitioner no longer held at least some of the 20 delusional beliefs that Dr. Franklin described as “inextricably 21 intertwined with his current legal case,” such as the beliefs 22 that Petitioner’s attorney conspired with the prosecution, 23 concealed exculpatory evidence, and ignored his successful 24 appeal. 25 now competent. It is Indeed, Petitioner may well have regained his competency Of significant import in this regard is Dr. Good’s Thus, there is substantial evidence that Petitioner is 26 Yet substantial evidence of Petitioner’s competency is not 27 necessarily sufficient to establish that Petitioner has in fact 28 regained his competency. Cf. Hill, 2008 WL 683422, at *2 (“Of 1 course, the [substantial] evidence that suggests that Petitioner 2 may be incompetent is insufficient to establish that Petitioner 3 is in fact incompetent.”). 4 state with a great degree of confidence that Petitioner has 5 regained his competency. 6 discuss his legal issues with Dr. Good in any significant way — 7 apparently as a result of his continuing paranoia — prevented Dr. 8 Good from gaining sufficient insight into Petitioner’s 9 understanding of his position. Thus, like Dr. Good, the Court cannot This is because Petitioner’s refusal to But Petitioner’s understanding of 10 his position is central to any determination of his competency. 11 As Petitioner’s counsel notes, the Court should have before it 12 clearer evidence regarding “whether Petitioner is able to 13 generally identify the claims that he is making, and whether he 14 is able to discuss the general categories of information . . . 15 that are necessary for him to communicate to his counsel.” 16 No. 305 at 10–11.) (Doc. 17 However, Petitioner’s counsel’s suggestion of further 18 discussion between Petitioner and Dr. Good to attempt to develop 19 sufficient information, (id. at 10), is not well taken. 20 already has made valiant efforts — with Petitioner’s counsel’s 21 assistance — in that regard, yet he was unable to do so. 22 seems more likely that Petitioner’s own expert, Dr. Franklin, 23 might succeed, as it does not appear that Petitioner’s paranoia 24 necessarily extends to Dr. Franklin. 25 counsel may arrange for Dr. Franklin to examine Petitioner to 26 develop additional evidence that would assist the Court in 27 28 Dr. Good It Accordingly, Petitioner’s 1 determining Petitioner’s competency.3 2 also submit additional evidence, such as medical records as well 3 as appropriate declarations, under seal if necessary, regarding 4 their own interactions with Petitioner. 5 1058 (“habeas counsel has filed a sealed declaration outlining 6 her own difficulties in communicating with” the petitioner); (see 7 also Doc. No. 306 at 4 (“[R]espondent can[]not help but note the 8 absence of any assertion that [] Petitioner is not presently 9 rationally communicating with his attorney or is unable to assist Petitioner’s counsel may See Nash, 581 F.3d at 10 counsel in the preparation of his Traverse.”)). 11 Petitioner’s counsel choose not to do so, for whatever reason, 12 the Court will conclude based on the current state of the record 13 that Petitioner is now competent. 14 counsel should notify the Court of any material change in 15 Petitioner’s condition that may indicate that he again becomes 16 incompetent.4 However, if In that event, Petitioner’s 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 Respondent correctly points out that Petitioner elected not to have Dr. Franklin examine Petitioner following the examination by Dr. Good. (Doc. No. 306 at 3, 4.) Respondent argues that this “decision seems a clear indication of counsel’s satisfaction with the sufficiency of the record.” (Id.) However, this Court’s Order Setting Procedures for Competency Examination authorized contemporaneous examinations by Drs. Good and Franklin, (Doc. No. 295 at 3; see also id. at 6), not, as Respondent claims, a later examination by Dr. Franklin “to cure any of the alleged deficiencies in the assessments for competency used by the State’s experts,” (Doc. No. 306 at 3.) Moreover, the Court specifically ordered that Petitioner “shall be permitted to object in this Court to the scope of the examination conducted [by Dr. Good], prior to any decision by this Court on the question of his present competence.” (Doc. No. 295 at 5.) 4 The Court is mindful of one of Petitioner’s attorney’s unavailability as set forth in the Notice of Unavailability, (Doc. No. 308), as well as both of Petitioner’s attorneys’ obligations in Johnson v. Martel, No. 3-98-cv-4043-SI, and it will take these considerations into account in scheduling matters in the instant action. 1 2 IV Accordingly, and good cause therefor appearing, within sixty 3 days of the entry of present order, Petitioner shall file a 4 statement indicating whether Dr. Franklin will reëxamine 5 Petitioner. 6 thirty days of the filing of such statement, subject to counsel’s 7 availability and pursuant to the Court’s prior Order Setting 8 Procedures for Competency Examination, (Doc. No. 295). 9 Petitioner’s counsel shall file Dr. Franklin’s evaluation and any Any such examination shall be conducted within 10 additional declarations or other evidence no later than thirty 11 days from the date of her evaluation. 12 choose to arrange for a further evaluation by Dr. 13 Court will rule on Petitioner’s current competency based on the 14 materials submitted. 15 If Petitioner does not Franklin, the IT IS SO ORDERED. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 DATED: 4/21/2011 _______________ ______________________________ CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge

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