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United States v. Brown

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

July 2, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
NATHANIEL E. BROWN, Defendant.

ORDER

BRIAN C. WIMES, District Judge.

Before the Court is Magistrate Judge Sarah W. Hays's Report and Recommendation with respect to Defendant's Motion for Determination of Competency (Doc. #15). In response to this motion, Magistrate Judge Hays ordered Defendant to undergo a psychiatric or psychological examination, after which the examining psychiatrist or psychologist would file an evaluation report. (Doc. #16). On March 9, 2015, the evaluating psychologist filed a report with respect to Defendant's competency (Doc. #19). Thereafter, the parties appeared for a Competency Hearing before Magistrate Judge Hays. (Doc. #21). The Magistrate Court deferred ruling on the Motion for Determination of Competency because Defendant wished to seek an independent evaluation. (Doc. #21).

On March 31, 2015, the Court granted Defendant's motion for a contact visit and ordered Defendant to undergo an additional psychiatric or psychological examination to be conducted by Dr. William Logan. (Doc. #24). The Magistrate Court further ordered that "upon completion of the examination... defense counsel shall advise the Court whether to schedule a follow-up hearing to receive additional information or whether the Court should consider the competency hearing closed." (Doc. #24 at 3).

After Dr. Logan's evaluation, Defendant advised the Court that he did not intend to present additional evidence "from Dr. Logan regarding the competency issue, " such that Motion for Determination of Competency (Doc. #15) was ready for ruling. On June 10, 2015, Magistrate Judge Hays issued a Report and Recommendation on the motion, finding that based upon the Forensic Report prepared by Christine Scronce, Ph.D. (Doc. #19), "defendant Nathaniel E. Brown is not currently suffering from a mental disease or defect which would prevent him from understanding the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or assisting in his defense." (Doc. #25 at 3). Neither party filed objections to the Report and Recommendation.

This Court, having independently reviewed the Report and Recommendation, the record, the applicable law, and the parties' arguments, adopts Magistrate Judge Hays's findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Court thus concludes that Defendant is competent based on the results of a psychological evaluation indicating that Defendant is not currently suffering from a mental disease or defect which would prevent him from understanding the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or assisting in his defense. Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED Defendant's motion for determination of competency (Doc. #15) is, to the extent necessary, granted based on the Magistrate Judge's prior rulings ordering Defendant's psychiatric or psychological evaluation. It is further

ORDERED Magistrate Judge Hays's Report and Recommendation (Doc. #25) is ADOPTED. The Court adopts Magistrate Judge Hays's findings of fact and conclusions of law that Defendant is not currently suffering from a mental disease or defect which would prevent him from understanding the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or assisting in his defense. It is further

ORDERED the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation (Doc. #25) be attached to and made part of this Order.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

On November 12, 2014, a Criminal Complaint was filed against defendant Nathaniel E. Brown. On November 18, 2014, the Grand Jury returned a one-count indictment against defendant Brown. The indictment charges defendant with being a felon in possession of ammunition.

On November 25, 2014, defense counsel filed a Motion for Determination of Competency. The motion requested that the Court "order a psychiatric examination of defendant... regarding the defendant's ability to understand the proceedings pending against him and to assist counsel in his defense." (Doc #15 at 1) On November 25, 2014, the Court ordered that defendant undergo a psychiatric or psychological examination.

Defendant Brown was examined at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, Illinois. On March 9, 2015, a Forensic Report was filed with the Court. The Forensic Report was prepared by Christine Scronce, Ph.D., Forensic Psychologist. The report concluded:

Because of Mr. Brown's malingering, it was not possible to fully assess his understanding of the legal process and his current case. However, his attempts to feign impairment suggested he was aware of the seriousness of the charge against him and was trying to avoid potential consequences. It was also apparent from his efforts to malinger that Mr. Brown was motivated to defend himself. Mr. Brown chose to be uncooperative by malingering during the current evaluation; however, it is the opinion of the undersigned that he does not suffer from any genuine symptoms or deficits that would prevent him from participating in the legal process and assisting in his defense, if he so chooses.
It is the professional opinion of the undersigned evaluator that Mr. Brown does not currently suffer from a mental disease or defect which renders him unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, or to assist properly in his defense.

(Doc #19 at 10)

On March 17, 2015, a competency hearing was held before the undersigned. Defendant Brown appeared with counsel, Assistant Federal Public Defender Stephen C. Moss. The government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Bruce A. Rhoades. Mr. Moss and Mr. Rhoades each stipulated that Dr. Scronce would testify consistently with the Forensic Report filed with the Court. (Tr. of 3/17/15 Hearing (doc #22) at 2-3) Mr. Moss asked for the opportunity to have defendant Brown evaluated by a second expert given the conclusions of the Forensic Report. (Id. at 2) The government did not oppose the Court leaving the record open in order for defense counsel to obtain an additional evaluation. (Id. at 3)

On March 30, 2015, defense counsel filed an Ex Parte Motion for Contact Visit (doc #23). The motion requested that the Court direct CCA, the facility where defendant is currently housed, to allow Dr. William Logan to meet with defendant to perform an evaluation of defendant's competency to proceed. Defense counsel requested that the results of Dr. Logan's evaluation remain confidential unless counsel chooses to submit such evidence to the Court and the government. (Tr. of 3/17/15 Hearing (doc #22) at 6; doc #23 at 1) The government agreed that this procedure was appropriate. (Tr. of 3/17/15 Hearing (doc #22) at 7) The Court granted defendant's motion for contact visit. (Doc #24) Upon completion of Dr. Logan's examination of defendant and defense counsel's receipt of Dr. Logan's evaluation, defense counsel was instructed to advise the Court whether to schedule a follow-up hearing to receive additional information or whether the Court should consider the competency hearing closed. (Doc #24 at 3)

Defense counsel has advised the Court that defendant will not be presenting additional evidence from Dr. Logan regarding the competency issue. Thus, the record on the competency issue is closed and the issue is ready for ruling.

As set forth above, Dr. Scronce opined that "Mr. Brown does not currently suffer from a mental disease or defect which renders him unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, or to assist properly in his defense." (Doc #19 at 10)

Based upon the information before the Court, it is

RECOMMENDED that the Court, after making an independent review of the record and applicable law, enter an order finding that defendant Nathaniel E. Brown is not currently suffering from a mental disease or defect which would prevent him from understanding the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or assisting in his defense.

Counsel are reminded they have fourteen days from the date of this Report and Recommendation within which to file and serve objections. A failure to file and serve timely objections shall bar an attack on appeal of the factual findings in this Report and Recommendation which are accepted or adopted by the district judge, except on grounds of plain error or manifest injustice.


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