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United States v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 3, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MICHAEL J. DAVIS, Defendant.

HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, GEOFFREY J.L. BROWN, ESQ., Assistant U.S. Attorney, Syracuse, NY for the United States.

MOYNIHAN LAW OFFICE, KENNETH M. MOYNIHAN, ESQ. Syracuse, NY, for the Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

DAVID E. PEEBLES, Magistrate Judge.

Defendant Michael J. Davis is charged by indictment with unlawfully manufacturing marijuana. He was arraigned on the pending charges on May 16, 2013, and is currently being held in custody while awaiting trial.

After receiving a letter from defendant's former assigned attorney suggesting that Davis may not be competent to stand trial, the court ordered that a psychiatric or psychological examination be conducted to address the issue. As a result of that examination, a forensic psychologist has examined Davis and issued a report concluding that he suffers from a serious mental illness that serves to undermine his rational understanding of the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, and that he is unable to assist his attorney effectively in his defense.

Following receipt of that report, the court conducted a competency hearing. At the hearing, the defendant, through new counsel, maintained that he is in fact capable of understanding the proceedings and charges against him and will be able to effectively assist his counsel in preparing his defense. The government, in a reversal of roles, argued that Davis is not competent to stand trial and should therefore be referred to the Attorney General for restoration of competency. For the reasons set forth below, I recommend a finding that the defendant is competent to stand trial.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant Davis was indicted by a grand jury on May 8, 2013, and charged with unlawfully manufacturing marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Dkt. No. 1. Defendant appeared for arraignment in connection with the charge before United States Magistrate Judge Therèse Wiley Dancks on May 16, 2013. Text Minute Entry Dated May 16, 2013. At that appearance, Magistrate Judge Dancks assigned the Northern District of New York Federal Public Defender to represent Davis in the matter. Id. Five days later, following a detention hearing, defendant was ordered detained pending trial. Dkt. No. 11.

On May 28, 2013, Assistant Federal Public Defender James F. Greenwald wrote to the court expressing his belief, based upon meetings with the defendant and his mother, that Davis may be suffering from a mental disease rendering him mentally incompetent to stand trial, and requesting that his client be referred for a psychiatric or psychological examination and report, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b). Dkt. No. 12. In response to that letter, Assistant United States Attorney Geoffrey J.L. Brown wrote to the court on May 30, 2013, advising that the government did not object to the request for a competency hearing. Dkt. No. 13. On the same date, Senior District Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., issued an order referring the matter to me to determine whether a psychiatric or psychological examination was warranted and, if so, to order the examination and schedule a competency hearing as soon as practicable. Dkt. No. 14.

In accordance with Judge Scullin's order, I held a hearing on June 17, 2013, and found the existence of a substantial question as to whether Davis is fully able to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and properly assist in his defense. Text Minute Entry Dated June 17, 2013. Accordingly, an order was issued directing that he be committed to the custody of the Attorney General for a reasonable period for the purpose of conducting a psychiatric or psychological examination to determine his mental competence, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241. Dkt. No. 16.

Davis was subsequently transported to the Devens Federal Medical Center ("FMC Devens"), a federal Bureau of Prisons facility located in Ayer, Massachusetts, for the required examination. There, he was tested and examined by various professionals under the direction of Dr. Miriam Kissin, Psy. D, a forensic psychologist. See generally Dkt. No. 17 (sealed). The examination consisted of multiple clinical interviews, as well as testing utilizing the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Second Edition ("MMPI-2"). Id. In addition, Dr. Kissin and her staff sought input from defendant's assigned counsel, Assistant United States Attorney Brown, Davis' mother, and Dr. Jonathan Braiman, the defendant's treating neurologist.[1] Id. Defendant was also routinely observed in his housing unit by both clinical and correctional staff, whose observations were incorporated into the findings of the report. Id.

On September 6, 2013, Dr. Kissin issued a report in which she concluded that Davis suffers from a psychotic disorder that compromises his rational understanding of the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and interferes with his ability to assist his attorney effectively in his defense.[2] Dkt. No. 17. Following receipt of that report, the court conducted a hearing on October 7, 2013, at which the court relieved the Northern District of New York Federal Public Defender of the assignment in the case based upon an apparent difference between the defendant and his counsel concerning the issue of competence. Text Minute Entry Dated Oct. 7, 2013. The existence of that disagreement was reflected in the report prepared by Dr. Kissin, and I had an opportunity to discuss the matter with both the Assistant Federal Public Defender and defendant at the hearing. Id. Kenneth M. Moynihan, Esq., was subsequently appointed, on October 16, 2013, to represent Davis in the matter. Dkt. No. 18.

Following the substitution of counsel, and after affording defendant's replacement attorney an opportunity to prepare, a hearing was held by me on February 20, 2014, to address the question of defendant's competence to stand trial. Text Minute Entry Dated Feb. 20, 2014. Dr. Kissin testified at that hearing by video conference, providing details of defendant's evaluation at FMC Devens and her opinions. Id. Davis also testified during the competency hearing. Id. At the conclusion of the hearing, I reserved ...


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