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United States v. Thompson

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

July 31, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ADRIAN DESHAWN THOMPSON

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MYRON H. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This criminal case is before the court on the government's motion to commit defendant Adrian Deshawn Thompson to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for a mental examination. An examination by a local psychologist raised serious doubts about his competency to participate in the proceedings, as well as whether he had a mental disease or defect at the time of the alleged offenses, though she was unable to render an opinion about either issue.

         Based on representations in the record as well as those made in open court on July 26, 2017, and for the reasons discussed below, the court will grant the government's motion and will commit Thompson to the custody of the BOP for an independent evaluation of five issues: (1) whether Thompson is currently able to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense (competency evaluation); (2) whether, if found incompetent, his competency can be restored (restoration determination); (3) whether, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offenses, he, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts (insanity-defense evaluation); (4) whether, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offenses, he had a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition otherwise bearing on the issue of guilt (otherwise-bearing-on-guilt evaluation); and (5) whether, if convicted, he requires hospitalization in lieu of incarceration, or instead may require other forms of treatment during or after incarceration (hospitalization-or-treatment evaluation).

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Thompson is charged in a five-count indictment with three separate counts of drug possession with intent to distribute (alprazolam, hydrocodone, and amphetamine); one count of marijuana possession; and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense.

         In July 2017, with jury selection and trial approaching, Thompson filed a notice, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12.2(b), that he “intends to offer at trial expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect bearing on the issue of guilt.” Notice (doc. no. 21). The notice referred to an existing forensic mental-health evaluation by Dr. Lauren Reba-Harrelson.

         The government responded with a motion for Thompson's commitment for the purposes of conducting a mental examination of his current competency to proceed to trial as well as his sanity at the time of the offenses. The government's motion cited Dr. Reba-Harrelson's report, which indicated that Thompson “has a history of psychosis, most prominently displayed as paranoid delusions, with a theme of being persecuted by others.” Forensic Psychological Evaluation (doc. no. 30) at 23. The report also documented Thompson's past in-patient hospitalizations and outpatient psychiatric treatment, including a three-day hospitalization in August 2015 where he reported hallucinations and was prescribed antipsychotic medication; in-home treatment continuing into November 2015; and a further in-patient hospitalization in April 2016, during which he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Paranoid Type.

         Dr. Reba-Harrelson provided a provisional diagnosis of Unspecified Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorder, which is characterized by “co-occurring depressed mood and psychosis, causing distress and impairments.” Id. at 25. She noted, however, that her evaluation produced only “equivocal information related to current or recent symptoms of psychosis, ” and stated that she is not able to render an opinion about whether Thompson has experienced or is experiencing paranoid delusions or other signs of psychosis since his incarceration. Id. She indicated that, before she could render an opinion on his current mental state, she would need to review additional collateral sources to buttress, confirm, or refute his own reporting. Further, she described the limited nature of her evaluation, which was based on three visits over the course of a single month, offering only a “snapshot” of Thompson's condition. Id.

         Thompson, who is incarcerated pending trial, does not oppose the government's motion to commit him to a BOP facility and agrees to expanded examinations to include a mental-competency examination, a restoration determination if needed, an insanity-defense evaluation, an otherwise-bearing-on-guilt evaluation, and a hospitalization-or-treatment evaluation for sentencing purposes.[1]

         I. DISCUSSION

         A. Competency Evaluation

         A court may order a competency hearing sua sponte “if there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.” 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). In advance of the hearing, the court may order a defendant to be committed for a reasonable period to the custody of the Attorney General to be placed in a suitable facility for examination. §§ 4241(b); 4247(b).

         This court has reasonable cause to believe that Thompson may currently be suffering from a mental disease or defect that renders him incompetent to continue with the jury selection and trial. Despite the limitations of the outpatient examination format, Dr. Reba-Harrelson's thorough, 27-page evaluation supports that conclusion: her report amply documents the possibility that Thompson may currently be exhibiting symptoms of psychosis. Accordingly, the court will order a competency hearing prior to proceeding with the jury selection and trial.

         Further, because Dr. Reba-Harrelson was unable to evaluate adequately Thompson's competency within the limitations of an outpatient examination, the court concludes, with the consent of both the government and Thompson, that commitment to a BOP facility, where he may be observed for a reasonable period, is required to evaluate adequately his mental state. The examination ...


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