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United States v. Lane

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

September 10, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CLARENCE WRIGHT LANE, JR.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MYRON H. THOMPSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Clarence Wright Lane, Jr. has been indicted on 14 counts: one count of possessing a firearm known to be stolen, eight counts of disposing of a firearm to a convicted felon, one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and four counts of possessing with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. Defense counsel filed a motion for Lane to receive a mental-health evaluation to determine his competence to stand trial. The court held a hearing on the motion, which is unopposed by the government, on September 3, 2019. For the reasons explained below, the court will order this examination as well as, if feasible, other mental-health examinations, all to be conducted at Bureau of Prisons (BOP) mental-health facilities.

         A.

         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 of time to the custody of the Attorney General to be placed in a suitable BOP facility for this competency examination. See §§ 4241(b), 4247(b).

         Lane has previously been diagnosed with Attention Deficient Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD) and bipolar disorder. Since his incarceration, he has begun taking medication to manage symptoms of depression. As a result of his mental disorders, he received SSI disability benefits until the age of 18. In addition, he reports difficulty writing, raising concerns that he may also suffer from an intellectual disability or, at least, may otherwise have some limited intellectual capacity. Defense counsel reports that, in the course of this case, Lane's decisions have appeared “impulsive and irrational, ” Motion for Psychological Evaluation and Determination of Mental Competency (doc. no. 61) at 1, and that Lane has been unable to “grasp concepts included in the law of conspiracy and accomplice liability.” Id.

         Based on these representations, the court finds that there is reason to believe that Lane may not be competent to stand trial. The court will, therefore, order him to be evaluated at a BOP mental-health facility, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 4241(b) and 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 Lane's mental condition; and the examiner's opinions as to whether, given the demands that may be made on Lane throughout this prosecution, he 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.” 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a).

         B.

         If, after this evaluation, the court were to find that Lane 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 need to be hospitalized for treatment in a suitable facility, though this time in order to determine whether there is a substantial probability that, in the foreseeable future, he will attain the capacity to permit the criminal proceedings against him to go forward. See 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(1). The court wishes 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 Lane from the BOP back to this district and then back to the BOP again. Thus, the court will order that, if the BOP examiner finds Lane incompetent, the examiner should, if possible and practicable as allowed by the applicable statutory time constraints, see 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b), and without an additional court order, immediately conduct a restoration evaluation pursuant to § 4241(d)(1) to determine if there is a substantial probability that, in the foreseeable future, Lane will regain competency. However, if the evaluator concludes that Lane is incompetent to stand trial but is unable, for whatever reason, to reach the related issue of restoration, the BOP should, if feasible, still hold Lane at the evaluation site so that a competency hearing can promptly be held by video-conferencing. This will allow the court to order a restoration evaluation, if appropriate, without first transporting Lane back to the jail in the local district.

         C.

         Should the evaluator find Lane competent to proceed, the evaluator should, if feasible, immediately perform a ‘pre-sentencing study' of him pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3552(b), to avoid any additional delay from having to recommit Lane for this study. This court has held that, where there is a reasonable basis to believe that a defendant's mental disease or defect--including a substance-abuse disorder--contributed to the conduct underlying his or her conviction, the court should order a mental-health evaluation. See United States v. Kimbrough, No. 2:07cr260, 2018 WL 989541 (M.D. Ala. Feb. 20, 2018) (Thompson, J.); see also United States v. Mosley, 277 F.Supp.3d 1294 (M.D. Ala. 2017) (Thompson, J.) (discussing the issue of substance-abuse disorders in further detail).

         Here, Lane has been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder. Defense counsel reports that Lane has used marijuana and that he is now charged with crimes involving methamphetamine. Further, Lane has reported difficulty writing. The court has reason to believe that Lane's mental disorders, and potentially other co-occurring cognitive deficits or limitations and substance abuse, together or alone, contributed to the offenses with which he is charged.

         Should Lane be found competent to proceed and be convicted, the court would order such a study to aid in fashioning an appropriate sentence, by helping to determine (1) whether and how Lane's mental disorders and deficiencies, together or alone, should mitigate his sentence; and (2) what type of treatment, if any, he should receive during supervised release to prevent further criminal activity and assist with rehabilitation.* The BOP's recommendations should, therefore, focus on the dual, overlapping issues of mitigation and treatment: the role, if any, Lane's mental disorders, diminished or limited mental capacity, and substance abuse, together or alone, may have played in his charged conduct, and what treatment is recommended for him in light of his individual characteristics and history.

         18 U.S.C. § 3552(b) authorizes the court, upon a defendant's conviction, to order that a pre-sentencing study be done by the BOP upon the finding of a “compelling reason” or where there are no adequate professional resources available in the local community to perform the study. In this case, the court seeks a comprehensive, longitudinal evaluation of Lane's mental health to assess not only whether he suffers from a substance-abuse disorder and any co-occurring mental disorders or cognitive deficits, but how these disorders and deficits interact, if at all, and to assist in the development of a specialized treatment plan, in light of his mental-health diagnoses, that will help to ensure that he does not continue to violate the law. There are no local resources available that can provide such a specialized, comprehensive, and longitudinal evaluation in the local jail, where Lane is currently being detained. Also, defense counsel himself ask that such an evaluation be done while Lane is housed at the BOP facility. Because there are no adequate ...


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