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United States v. Wills

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston

January 3, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOSHUA WARREN WILLS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          JOHN T. COPENHAVER, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending are the defendant's motion to dismiss indictment for violations of his Fifth Amendment substantive due process rights, filed November 12, 2019, and the Government's motion for an extension of time to comply with the court's August 16, 2019 order, filed November 16, 2019.

         I. Background

         On August 9, 2019, the court held a hearing pursuant to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. §§ 4241(c) and 4247(d), at which it was found by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was suffering from “a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he [was] unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.” Mem. Opinion & Order, Aug. 16, 2019, ECF No. 39 (“Order”) at 2.

         The court issued a memorandum opinion and order on August 16, 2019 committing the defendant to the custody of the Attorney General pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d). Id. at 4. The Order instructs the Attorney General to “hospitalize the defendant for treatment in a suitable facility for such a reasonable period of time, not to exceed three months, to determine whether there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future he will attain the capacity” to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and to assist properly in his defense, so as to permit the proceedings to go forward. Id. (emphasis added). The Order provides additional instructions and timelines for the Government to report on the defendant's competency and for the potential grant of additional time. See id. at 5-7. In addition, the Order notes circumstances under which the director of the evaluation facility is to determine whether the defendant “is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect as a result of which his release could create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another.” Id. at 7.

         On October 9, 2019, the court received letters from the defense counsel and from the Government, both regarding the status of the defendant's evaluation.[1] The Government advised that there are only two Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) facilities that offer the psychological services that the defendant requires: Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina (“FMC Butner”), and a facility in Springfield, Missouri. As of October 9, 2019, the defendant was 63rd in line to receive services at FMC Butner, but the facility would not have an available bed for the defendant until late December 2019.[2]According to recent advice by the Government, the defendant arrived at FMC Butner for evaluation on December 23, 2019. Notice of Transfer of Def., ECF No. 46.

         The defendant filed the motion to dismiss the indictment for violations of his Fifth Amendment substantive due process rights due to the Government's alleged failure to undertake the court-ordered evaluation at any time within the three-month deadline set by the court order. See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 42. As noted, the Government filed a motion for an extension of the time to comply with the court order. See Gov't's Mot. Extension, ECF No. 43.

         II. Legal Standard

         At any time after the commencement of a prosecution for an offense and prior to the sentencing of a defendant, the defendant or the attorney for the Government may file a motion for a hearing to determine the mental competency of the defendant. 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). The court shall grant the motion, or sua sponte order such a hearing, if there is “reasonable cause” to believe that the defendant is presently 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.” Id. Prior to the hearing, the court may order a psychiatric or psychological examination of the defendant, pursuant to the provisions of section 4247(b)-(c). 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b). The hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of section 4247(d). 18 U.S.C. § 4241(c).

         After the hearing, the court must follow these steps:

If, after the hearing, the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is presently 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, the court shall commit the defendant to the custody of the Attorney General. The Attorney General shall hospitalize the defendant for treatment in a suitable facility--
(1) for such a reasonable period of time, not to exceed four months, as is 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; and
(2) for an additional reasonable period of time until--
(A) his mental condition is so improved that trial may proceed, if the court finds that there is a substantial probability that within such additional period of time he will attain the capacity ...

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