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United States v. Coleman

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

February 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
KELVIS JERMAINE COLEMAN

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MYRON H. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Kelvis Jermaine Coleman has been indicted on two counts of distribution of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). This case is now before the court on defense counsel's unopposed motion for Coleman to receive a mental-health evaluation by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). A hearing was held on the motion on January 28, 2019. For the reasons explained below, the motion will be granted.

         A.

         Defense counsel requested a competency evaluation based on concerns regarding Coleman's ability to communicate with him and to comprehend the substance of their conversations. At a hearing on the motion, defense counsel represented that Coleman was enrolled in special education classes as a child and has an IQ of 71, which places him in the range of borderline intellectual functioning; and that, due to his intellectual disability, Coleman has had a limited employment history, including only about two years of employment. Based on defense counsel's representations, as well as the fact that Coleman has had difficulty communicating with multiple lawyers who previously represented him in this case, the court has determined that Coleman should be evaluated.

         A court may order a competency evaluation on a party's motion, or on the court's own motion, “at any time after the commencement of a prosecution for an offense and prior to the sentencing of the defendant, ” 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). 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 BOP facility for this competency examination. See §§ 4241(b), 4247(b).

         In this case, the court finds that there is cause to believe Coleman may not be competent to stand trial. The court will, therefore, order Coleman to be evaluated at a BOP facility, pursuant to §§ 4241(b) and 4247(b). The examination must be completed within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 30 days; the director of the facility to which Coleman is committed may apply for a reasonable extension, not to exceed 15 days. See § 4247(b). Once the examination is complete, the examiner will prepare a psychological report and file this report with the court and with counsel, pursuant to § 4247. This report should include a description of the psychological and medical tests administered and their results; the examiner's findings, diagnosis, and prognosis of Coleman's mental condition; and the examiner's opinions as to whether, given the demands that may be made on Coleman throughout this prosecution, Coleman may currently 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.” § 4241(a).

         B.

         If, after this evaluation, the court were to find that Coleman is incompetent to stand trial, the court would then be required to commit him again to the custody of the Attorney General, and again he would be hospitalized for treatment in a suitable facility in order to determine whether there is a substantial probability that, in the foreseeable future, he will attain the capacity to permit the proceedings to go forward. See 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(1). To avoid the further delay and inconvenience to the parties and to the court of another potential commitment, including the extra time required to transport Coleman from the BOP back to this district and then back to the BOP again, the court will order that, when the BOP examiner conducts the competency evaluation, it should, if possible and practicable, simultaneously conduct a restoration evaluation pursuant to § 4241(d)(1) to determine if there is a substantial probability that, in the foreseeable future, Coleman will regain competency.

         C.

         At the oral requests of defense counsel and government counsel at the January 28 hearing and pursuant to the court's inherent powers, the BOP should, when it conducts the competency and restoration evaluations, simultaneously conduct an evaluation to determine whether Coleman was insane at the time of the offense pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4242 and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12.2. See United States v. Riley, 2018 WL 5660092, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Oct. 31, 2018) (Thompson, J.) (ordering psychological examination to determine insanity at the time of the offense pursuant to court's inherent powers and in absence of defense notice pursuant to Rule 12.2 and government motion under § 4242(a), albeit with agreement of parties).

         D.

         The parties further agreed and the court now finds that, should Coleman be found competent and be convicted, his mental health will need to be evaluated for purposes of sentencing pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3552(b). The parties, therefore, agree that, to avoid potentially having to bring him back to Alabama and then having to transport him again to a BOP facility for another evaluation, the BOP should, if possible and practicable, conduct a sentencing study while Coleman is at the BOP facility for his competency and insanity evaluations.

         Coleman has a lengthy history of substance abuse. He began using marijuana at the age of eleven, cocaine at the age of 15, and eventually began using methamphetamine. Days before he was arrested in this case, he reportedly was using all three substances. Coleman is facing punishment for distribution of methamphetamine, and there is reason to believe that his criminal conduct was impacted by his drug addiction and possibly a mental disability.

         Given the current psychiatric understanding that drug addiction is a disease, albeit a mental one, this court has held that a defendant who suffers from a drug addiction should be properly treated as having a mental disease or illness. See United States v. Mosley, 277 F.Supp.3d 1294 (M.D. Ala.) (Thompson, J.). Accordingly, where there is a reasonable basis to believe that a defendant's drug addiction contributed to the conduct underlying his or her conviction, the court will order a mental-health evaluation. Where, as here, the substance abuse may co-occur with a mental illness or intellectual disability, the need for an evaluation is perhaps even greater. Such an evaluation is necessary to aid the court in fashioning an appropriate sentence, by helping to determine (1) how a defendant's substance-abuse and any other mental disorders may have affected his or her culpability for the offense conduct; and (2) what type of treatment, if any, the defendant should receive during potential incarceration and supervised release. See 18 U.S.C. § 3552(b). By “culpability” the court does not mean whether a defendant had a legal defense such ...


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