ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN PROHIBITION
Brent Powell, Judge.
Caruthers seeks a writ of prohibition to prevent the circuit
court from ordering him to submit to a mental evaluation
pursuant to chapter 552. Because Caruthers has not asserted he
is not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect and the
circuit court lacks reasonable cause to question his
competence to stand trial, chapter 552 does not authorize the
circuit court to order the department of mental health to
conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Caruthers. The
preliminary writ of prohibition is made permanent.
and Procedural Background
is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree burglary,
armed criminal action, tampering, resisting arrest, and
escape. Caruthers endorsed Dr. Stacie Bunning as an expert
witness. Caruthers disclosed he intends to call Dr. Bunning
to testify at trial that he suffered from diminished mental
capacity, which rendered him incapable of deliberation at the
time of the alleged murder.
learning of Caruthers' endorsement of Dr. Bunning, the
State sought an order for a mental evaluation pursuant to
§ 552.020. The State later amended its request to seek
an order pursuant to § 552.015 and § 552.020. The
circuit court granted the State's motion, compelling
Caruthers to submit to a psychiatric evaluation and ordering
the department of mental health to conduct the evaluation
pursuant to § 552.015 and § 552.020. The circuit
court's order also directed the department to file a
written report with the court to include detailed findings of
the evaluation, state an opinion as to whether Caruthers had
a mental disease or defect, and state an opinion as to
whether Caruthers, as a result of mental disease or defect,
lacked a state of mind which is an element of the charged
petitioned the court of appeals for a writ of prohibition.
The court of appeals issued a preliminary writ, dispensed
with further briefing and oral argument pursuant to Rule
84.24(i), and subsequently made the writ permanent. This
Court ordered transfer pursuant to Rule 83.04.
Court has jurisdiction to issue original remedial writs. Mo.
Const. art. V, § 4. This Court may issue a writ of
(1) to prevent the usurpation of judicial power when a lower
court lacks authority or jurisdiction; (2) to remedy an
excess of authority, jurisdiction or abuse of discretion
where the lower court lacks the power to act as intended; or
(3) where a party may suffer irreparable harm if relief is
State ex rel. Strauser v. Martinez, 416 S.W.3d 798,
801 (Mo. banc 2014). A writ of prohibition is appropriate to
prevent a circuit court from ordering a defendant to undergo
a mental evaluation concerning the defendant's
"mental state at the time of alleged criminal conduct
without a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or
defect." State ex rel. Proctor v.
Bryson, 100 S.W.3d 775, 778 (Mo. banc 2003) (emphasis
seeks a writ of prohibition, arguing the circuit court
exceeded its authority by ordering him to undergo a mental
evaluation pursuant to chapter 552. The State argues §
552.015 and § 552.020 authorize the circuit court to
order a mental evaluation to determine whether Caruthers
suffered a mental disease or defect that rendered him
incapable of deliberating at the time of the alleged offense.
But this authority is not found in chapter 552.
552.015 does not authorize the circuit court to order a
mental evaluation. Rather, this section merely prescribes
when evidence of a defendant's mental disease or defect
is admissible in a criminal prosecution. See §
552.015. Section 552.020, on the other hand, does authorize
the circuit court to order the department of mental health to
conduct psychiatric evaluations of criminal defendants, but
only in two limited circumstances.
the circuit court may order an evaluation when the court
"has reasonable cause to believe that the accused lacks
mental fitness to proceed." § 552.020.2. This
subsection authorizes the circuit court to order an
evaluation when the court has reasonable cause to question a
defendant's present ability to "rationally consult
with counsel and the court and understand the proceedings
against him." State v. Hunter, 840 S.W.2d 850,
863 (Mo. banc 1992). In other words, § 552.020.2
authorizes the circuit court to order a mental evaluation to
determine whether a defendant is competent to stand trial.
Id.; see also Edwards v. State, 200 S.W.3d
500, 519 (Mo. banc 2006) ("A defendant is competent if
he has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer
with a reasonable degree of rational understanding
….") (internal quotations omitted). The purpose
of the evaluation authorized by this subsection, however, is
limited to determining whether the defendant is currently
competent and "does not allow the court to order an
examination as to the mental capacity of [the defendant] at
the time of the alleged criminal conduct."