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UNITED STATES v. WILLIAMS

January 3, 1980

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Philmore WILLIAMS, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COSTANTINO

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

Defendant, Philmore Williams, is charged with forcibly assaulting an employee of the United States Postal Service in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111. The Government alleges that on May 1, 1978 defendant did assault, with the use of a deadly and dangerous weapon, one Constantine Tricoukes, while Mr. Tricoukes was engaged in the performance of his official duties. Defendant contends that he is not guilty of assaulting a Federal employee because he was legally insane at the time of the commission of the crime.

 A nonjury trial was held before the Honorable Mark A. Costantino on June 18, 20 and 21 of 1979. The psychiatric evidence proffered during trial included three psychiatrists. Doctors Abrahamson and Klaf testified on behalf of the Government and Doctor Stone testified for the defendant. After listening to the testimony of Doctor Abrahamson the court determined that it could not accept his diagnosis of defendant's general state of mind, namely, neurotic depression with symptoms of hypocondriasus. Doctor Abrahamson attempted to question the validity of twenty-six years of medical opinion which described defendant Williams as being some form of schizophrenic. The court, after examining the voluminous hospital records, could not accept Doctor Abrahamson's disagreement with defendant's long psychiatric history. Thus, the court, in reaching its decision concerning the sanity of defendant, relied upon Doctors Klaf and Stone and the hospital records presented to the court.

 On the basis of the testimony given during the trial and the record before the court, the court finds that the Government has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Philmore Williams was sane at the moment he shot postman Tricoukes and further, that the Government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant is guilty of violating Section 111 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 Mr. Constantine Tricoukes, as station manager of the Springfield Gardens Post Office, first met defendant Williams on January 3, 1978. At that time, Mr. Williams was "yelling and causing a commotion" in the post office because his veteran's check had not been delivered. Mr. Tricoukes then handed the check to Mr. Williams and advised defendant as to the reason for the delay.

 On May 1, 1978 at 8:30 a.m., defendant Williams, who again was annoyed because he was not receiving his veteran's check, returned to the Queens Post Office and spoke with Mr. Tricoukes. Mr. Tricoukes, could not locate defendant's check and suggested that he return to the post office the following day. At 1:00 p.m. that same afternoon defendant reappeared, began causing a commotion and in a loud tone of voice asked to speak with the station supervisor.

 Mr. Tricoukes was summoned. The two exchanged words. Defendant was emphatic about not receiving his mail. Mr. Tricoukes repeated that he had explained everything about defendant's mail earlier that day. Defendant responded by shouting, "I guess that's it". Defendant then drew his revolver, pointed it at Tricoukes, and fired. Tricoukes was hit in the right shoulder.

 Mr. Williams placed the revolver back in his waistband and began to exit the post office. Mr. James Lewis, an officer employed by the New York City Housing and Police Department, was present in the post office at the time of the shooting. As the defendant stepped outside, Officer Lewis flashed his badge, shouted "Police" and instructed defendant not to move. Williams looked at Lewis and then defendant raised his right hand so as to reach inside his belt, whereupon Lewis stated, "Please don't Mister, I will have to shoot you." Defendant Williams then raised his hands and was placed under arrest.

 At the Queens precinct Inspector Sidney Wilson, an employee of the United States Postal Service, spoke with defendant Williams. After Williams admitted to the shooting, Inspector Wilson asked defendant why he had shot Manager Tricoukes. Defendant stated that Tricoukes had failed to keep his promise, that the manager was supposed to hold defendant's mail but had not done so. He related to Inspector Wilson that after leaving the post office on the morning of May 1, 1978, he had returned to his home and had waited for the arrival of the mail. Upon learning that the mail carrier had no knowledge of defendant's check, Williams picked up his revolver, placed it in his waistband and drove back to the post office where he demanded to see Manager Tricoukes.

 Inspector Wilson then accompanied defendant Williams to the Postal Inspector's Office in Brooklyn where defendant signed a Warning and Waiver of Rights Form after being advised of his constitutional rights. Defendant then signed a detailed confession of the events leading up to and including the shooting of Manager Tricoukes. Inspector Wilson further testified that defendant had acknowledged that he could have killed Tricoukes, but that Tricoukes should have kept his promise. Finally, defendant explained in his confession that he took his gun to the post office, on the afternoon of May 1, 1978, because he thought that the supervisor was going to make him "warm, mad."

 In court, defense counsel did not dispute the fact that Williams had shot manager Tricoukes on May 1, 1978. The question presented to the court involved the mental state of the defendant, to wit, whether because of some mental disease defendant lacked the requisite intent required by law such that he was not responsible for his criminal conduct. Defendant sought to prove that he lacked substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. In his defense, defendant presented the testimony of one Doctor Stone and submitted to the court documentation pertaining to his medical history.

 Doctor Stone, who examined Williams on April 30, 1979, diagnosed defendant as a simple schizophrenic, the class of schizophrenics which includes individuals who have problems with day to day activities and who appear quiet and withdrawn. The Doctor noted that defendant's disease had been largely in remission because of medication. During the examination, however, defendant advised Doctor Stone that his supply of medication had been depleted three days before the assault. Doctor Stone testified that this fact was significant insofar as failure to take the medication could cause defendant to become irritable and develop looseness of associations and paranoid thoughts.

 Doctor Stone also related that defendant's description of the sequence of events on May 1, 1978 demonstrated that his thoughts, at the time he pulled the trigger, were disorganized and further, that defendant was not at all clear about what had transpired on that particular afternoon. On the basis of Williams' assertions during the examination, Doctor Stone concluded that defendant's thought process had been disorganized. Specifically, when Tricoukes could not locate the check, defendant explained that he returned to his car and found the gun but it neither was clear to defendant why the gun was in the car nor did he remember shooting the postman. He further supported this diagnosis by the fact that defendant did not attempt to escape after the incident.

 Defendant presented a long history of mental disease dating back to 1953. Over a twenty-six year period doctors had described defendant's insight and judgment as impaired and his emotional reaction as inappropriate. In 1975 Doctor Ernest Oppenheimer began to periodically examine defendant Williams. During that year, Doctor Oppenheimer diagnosed defendant as a "schizophrenic in full remission." In September of 1977 Doctor Oppenheimer began to prescribe thorazine because defendant was having problems sleeping. On January 27, 1978 the Doctor rediagnosed defendant as in an "active schizophrenic process." Doctor Oppenheimer, however, did not request that Williams be hospitalized.

 Both Doctors Stone and Klaf testified that the thorazine was able to stabilize defendant's condition. Doctor Stone stated, however, that if defendant had not been taking his medication several days before the incident, this fact could have led to looseness of association, where one thought wouldn't lead to a rational response. Doctor Stone characterized defendant's acts as bizarre and such acts indicated that defendant "probably" had experienced looseness of thought. Doctor Stone cited several factors as central to his conclusion, namely, defendant didn't recall shooting the postman, didn't know why the gun was in the car, and had no coherent recollection of the exact sequence of events which had transpired on May 1, 1978. Finally, Doctor Stone felt that the confession was of limited utility in diagnosing defendant. He found first, that the confession did not indicate defendant's actual thoughts, and second, that the confession was based upon what other people had told defendant about the shooting.

 In stark contrast to Doctor Stone's testimony, Doctor Klaf reported that defendant Williams had not suffered from auditory hallucinations at the time of the shooting. Indeed, Doctor Klaf concluded that defendant had a good comprehension of where he was, how he got there, and what weapon he had used, and further, that defendant exhibited a good recollection of the events of May 1, 1978. On May 26, 1978, a few weeks after the incident, defendant admitted to Doctor Klaf that the postman had made him angry. Williams stated to Doctor Klaf that he had not felt that anyone was trying to harm him and he had not heard voices before the commission of the assault. ...


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