United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
H. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court is the issue of the mental competency of defendant
Levi JR Calhoun, III to stand trial--that is, whether he is
currently “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). At his competency
hearing, counsel for both Calhoun and the government agreed
to have the court rely solely on Calhoun's forensic
psychological evaluation report from the Bureau of Prisons
(BOP) to resolve this issue. Based on the BOP's report,
and for the following reasons, the court holds that Calhoun
is currently incompetent to stand trial. The court further
holds that he should be recommitted to the custody of the
Attorney General for a reasonable period of time as
“necessary 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.” 18
U.S.C. § 4241(d)(1).
who is 27 years old, was charged in a two-count indictment
for allegedly making false threats online and over social
media concerning school shooting and bombing attempts in
Alabama and Georgia. The day of his arrest, and after
observing Calhoun and speaking with Calhoun's family,
defense counsel filed a motion for psychological evaluation,
to which the government did not object. Upon this request,
the court ordered Calhoun to be committed to the BOP's
custody for an independent evaluation and report concerning
his mental competency. The BOP psychologist's findings
psychologist diagnosed Calhoun with “Mild Intellectual
Disability, ” BOP Report (doc. no. 13) at 10, which
impairs his factual and rational understanding of the legal
proceedings and charges against him and renders him
“not competent to proceed at this point” with his
case, id. at 15. The report describes this
disability as “a disorder with onset during the
developmental period that includes both intellectual and
adaptive functioning deficits.” Id. at 10.
Thus, three criteria must be met to diagnose this disorder:
“1) deficits in intellectual functions” (such as
reasoning, problem solving, judgment, and academics);
“2) deficits in adaptive functioning that result in
failure to meet developmental and sociocultural
standards” (such as living independently without
ongoing support, or issues functioning across multiple
environments like school and home); “and 3) onset of
intellectual and adaptive deficits during the developmental
period.” Id. at 10. The BOP psychologist
concluded that Calhoun meets each of these criteria.
least from the age of eight, Calhoun reportedly experienced
significant deficits in intellectual and adaptive
functioning. According to the report, Calhoun stated that he
“had trouble learning, ” despite being in special
education classes throughout his schooling. Id. at
3. The report indicated that he recalled “fighting and
stuff” in school and having dropped out of school in
the ninth grade because he “got tired of putting up
with people.” Id.
review of Calhoun's school and health records amply
corroborates his academic and behavioral problems in school.
His IQ at eight years old was reportedly “in the
extremely low range, ” with a score of 59. Id.
at 5. School tests indicated that his “reading,
spelling, and mathematic skills were at a first grade level,
despite him being eight years old at the time.”
Id. Calhoun was reportedly significantly delayed in
comparison with other children his age and had
“diagnoses of Pervasive Developmental Disorder ...
ADHD, Elective Mutism, Parent/Child Relational Problem,
Sibling Relational Problem, Phonological Disorder, and Mild
Mental Retardation.” Id. at 5.
adaptive functioning deficits as a child were also
demonstrated by reports of him “being ‘prone to
aggressive and violent episodes.'” Id.
Mental-health records from Calhoun's childhood and
adolescence recount incidences of his aggression towards
animals, other children at school, and his family. Calhoun
was hospitalized at least four times after physically
attacking his mother and sister and for punching holes in the
wall during angry outbursts. As a result, he was assessed as
having bipolar symptoms, in addition to Mild Mental
Retardation, was medicated with antipsychotics and mood
stabilizers, and received various diagnoses of Mood Disorder,
Impulse Control Disorder, and Schizoaffective Disorder.
the BOP psychologist determined that, despite past diagnoses
and treatments, Calhoun's “mood reactivity may be
better accounted for by his intellectual disability than a
diagnosis of a mood disorder.” Id. at 11. The
report found Calhoun's past and current behavior to be
inconsistent with Bipolar Disorder and found “no
periods of mania or hypomania” during his evaluation
period, or “any signs indicating [Calhoun] was
experiencing a mood or psychotic disorder.”
Id. at 7.
on his BOP evaluation, Calhoun's intellectual functioning
remains “extremely low.” Id. at 8. His
reported IQ is 57. His performance on the Wide Range
Achievement Test (WRAT-4), used to measure “basic
academic skills of reading, comprehension, spelling, and
arithmetic, ” was also found to be “within the
‘Extremely Low' intellectual range.”
Id. at 8-9. However, as the report noted, “low
IQ alone ... is not inconsistent with being competent to
stand trial.” Id. at 12. Accordingly,
Calhoun's results from the BOP's competency-related
assessments, reviewed below, are of great value to the
determination of Calhoun's present competency to stand
forensic evaluation included two competency-related
assessments: The Competence Assessment for Standing Trial for
Defendants with Mental Retardation (CAST-MR) and the Revised
Competency Assessment Instrument (R-CAI). The CAST-MR is
comprised of three sections and evaluates defendants'
answers to questions on (1) basic legal concepts, (2) skills
to assist their defense, and (3) understanding of case
events. The R-CAI is “a semi-structured interview
designed to assess an individual's ability to articulate
understanding of the nature and consequences of criminal
court charges and proceedings, and the ability to assist
counsel in a defense.” Id. at 13.
to the BOP report, Calhoun answered correctly 22 questions
out of 25 (88 %) on the first section of the CAST-MR
regarding basic legal concepts. This score of 88 % is higher
than the average score “for individuals with mental
retardation found competent to proceed.” Id.
at 12. On the second section of the CAST-MR (evaluating
skills to assist one's defense), “Calhoun scored
correctly on 10 out of 15 items, or 67 %.” Id.
at 12-13. A score of 67 % is similar to the average score of
“individuals with mental retardation who were
determined to be competent.” Id. at 13.
Finally, on the third section, which evaluates
defendants' specific case events, Calhoun scored 60 %,
which is “between the average scores of individuals
with mental retardation who were found to be competent and
those determined to be incompetent.” Id.
stark contrast, the R-CAI tool, used to assess Calhoun's
understanding of the nature and consequences of his criminal
case, yielded results that present much greater concern
regarding his current competency to stand trial. According to
the BOP report, despite some suitable responses,
Calhoun's answers to several questions about important
legal aspects revealed his impaired rational understanding of
the consequences he faces. For example, when asked about the
meaning of pleading guilty by reason of insanity,
Calhoun's reported response did not express an actual
understanding of the concept: “That means I didn't
do it.” Id. Calhoun's response half an
hour later, after having learned more about the subject from
the evaluator, was no less concerning: “It means they
plead to they did it or something.” Id.
Similarly, the evaluator's teaching attempts apparently
did not improve Calhoun's understanding of plea
agreements. Before and after his consideration of information
on plea agreements, Calhoun steadfastly believed that
pleading guilty with the benefit of an agreement results in
the defendant forfeiting only his or her right to vote.
also demonstrated a lack of comprehension concerning the
basic roles of individuals in the courtroom. While he stated
that the role of counsel for the government is “to find
[him] guilty”, he had expressed minutes earlier that
the roles of a prosecutor and jury are to be on the same
“side” as the judge. Id. at 14. ...