192 P.3d 721 (Nev. 2008), 48840, Mitchell v. State

Docket Nº:48840.
Citation:192 P.3d 721
Opinion Judge:By the Court, GIBBONS, C.J.:
Party Name:Donald MITCHELL, a/k/a Donald E. Mitchell, Jr., Appellant, v. The STATE of Nevada, Respondent.
Attorney:David M. Schieck, Special Public Defender, and Clark W. Patrick and Lee Elizabeth McMahon, Deputy Special Public Defenders, Clark County, for Appellant., Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Carson City; David J. Roger, District Attorney, James Tufteland, Chief Deputy District Attorney, and ...
Case Date:September 18, 2008
Court:Supreme Court of Nevada
 
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192 P.3d 721 (Nev. 2008)

Donald MITCHELL, a/k/a Donald E. Mitchell, Jr., Appellant,

v.

The STATE of Nevada, Respondent.

No. 48840.

Supreme Court of Nevada.

September 18, 2008

         Rehearing Denied Nov. 3, 2008.

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         David M. Schieck, Special Public Defender, and Clark W. Patrick and Lee Elizabeth McMahon, Deputy Special Public Defenders, Clark County, for Appellant.

          Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Carson City; David J. Roger, District Attorney, James Tufteland, Chief Deputy District Attorney, and Nell E. Keenan, Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Respondent.

          BEFORE GIBBONS, C.J., MAUPIN and SAITTA, JJ.

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          OPINION

          GIBBONS, C.J.:

         In this appeal, we principally consider whether the district court violated appellant Donald Mitchell's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when the court ordered him to undergo a compulsory psychiatric examination after he claimed that he justifiably fired in self-defense because his post-traumatic stress disorder caused him to suffer from a heightened threat perception. We conclude that Mitchell's Fifth Amendment rights were not violated because he placed his mental state directly at issue. Concluding otherwise would permit him to enjoy the unfair asymmetry of being able to introduce defense expert witness testimony based upon personal interviews while denying State expert witnesses the same access. Mitchell also asserts a variety of other contentions, all of which we conclude lack merit. Accordingly, we affirm Mitchell's conviction for second-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon.

          FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 24, 2005, Shannon Butler held a pool party in Las Vegas at her apartment complex. Mitchell drove over to the party and arrived heavily intoxicated. Shortly after his arrival, he became involved in a heated discussion with the victim, Edward Charles. Mitchell and Charles had a history of violent confrontations. After some words were exchanged, Mitchell stated that he had a pistol in his vehicle and that somebody was going to get shot after he returned. Mitchell left the party for a few minutes and then returned with a pistol. Mitchell and Charles again exchanged words, and thereafter, shots were fired. While the parties dispute who fired first, or whether Charles fired at all, the record indicates that Mitchell repeatedly fired his pistol at Charles and killed him. Later that evening, doctors treated Mitchell for superficial gunshot wounds to his neck and hand.

         Based upon these events, the State charged Mitchell with murder with the use of a deadly weapon. Before trial commenced, Mitchell requested a psychiatric examination from Drs. Thomas Bittker and Louis Mortillaro. Both of these doctors concluded that Mitchell truthfully answered the test questions and that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, hypervigilence, and paranoia. Based upon these medical opinions, Mitchell pleaded not guilty, claiming that he fired in self-defense as his mental disorders caused him to overestimate the threat of attack and inhibited his ability to form the requisite mens rea to be guilty of murder. Mitchell did not plead an insanity defense. Mitchell waived his right to a jury, and the case proceeded as a bench trial.

         To rebut the opinions of Mitchell's experts, the State moved to have Mitchell examined by an independent psychiatric expert. Over Mitchell's objection, the district court granted the State's motion. After reviewing the results from two days of examination, Dr. David Schmidt concluded that Mitchell malingered during the psychiatric examination so that he would appear excessively pathological.

         The State notified Mitchell that Dr. Schmidt would testify at trial and also provided Mitchell with a copy of the examination data and computer scoring on which Dr. Schmidt based his opinion. However, the State did not provide Mitchell with certain background material regarding Dr. Schmidt's qualifications and prospective testimony.

         Mitchell testified during direct examination that he was a truthful person. Thereafter, on cross-examination, the State questioned Mitchell about an instance when he prank called 911 about a terrorist attack. After Drs. Bittker and Mortillaro rendered their psychiatric evaluations and testified that Mitchell suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the State questioned them on cross-examination about whether they were aware of an instance in elementary school when Mitchell threatened another student with a knife.

          At the conclusion of trial, the district court found that Mitchell killed Charles with malice aforethought, did not shoot in self-defense, and thus was guilty of second-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon. Thereafter, the district court sentenced

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Mitchell to life imprisonment, with parole eligibility after ten years, for the second-degree murder conviction and an equal and consecutive sentence for using a deadly weapon. The court awarded Mitchell 506 days' credit for time served in local custody before sentencing.

         On appeal, Mitchell assigns numerous procedural errors, the most significant being that the district court violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when it ordered him to undergo a compulsory psychiatric examination by an independent psychiatrist and, thereafter, allowed that expert to testify about the results of the examination at trial. He also asserts the following claims of error: (1) the State did not present sufficient evidence at trial for a rational trier of fact to convict him of second-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon; (2) the district court erred when it allowed the State to inquire into his prior bad acts; (3) the district court abused its discretion when it allowed the State's expert witness, Dr. Schmidt, to testify even though the State did not provide the pretrial disclosures mandated by NRS 174.234; and (4) the district court erred when it allowed the State to question Dr. Schmidt about the results of his psychiatric exam. We discuss each of these contentions in turn.

          DISCUSSION

          Mitchell's compelled psychiatric examination

          Mitchell argues that the district court violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and his due process rights when it ordered him, over his motion, to undergo an independent psychiatric examination. Mitchell particularly contends that a district court can order a compulsory psychiatric examination only when a defendant raises an insanity defense. We disagree and conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered Mitchell to undergo a psychiatric examination.1

          At the outset, we note that the Fifth Amendment bars the government from compelling a person to incriminate oneself and also bars the government from introducing compelled statements into evidence at trial.2 In Estes v. State, this court reviewed a similar issue and concluded that the State may introduce the results of a court-ordered psychiatric examination, and any related testimony, as long as the evidence is introduced only to rebut a defendant's insanity defense and does not relate to his or her culpability for the charged offense.3 However, this court has yet to consider whether the district court may order a defendant to undergo a psychiatric examination, and whether the State may introduce the results of that examination, when a defendant claims that his or her actions were justifiable because of post-traumatic stress disorder. We conclude that it is within the district court's discretion to order a defendant to undergo a psychiatric examination when a defendant claims that his criminal acts were justifiable because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, we conclude that in such a situation the State may introduce the results of the compulsory examination in order to rebut the defendant's claim. In reaching this conclusion, we are persuaded by the reasoning of those courts that have addressed the issue of compulsory psychiatric examinations, albeit in other factual and legal contexts-namely, battered-spouse syndrome and insanity. We turn now to an examination of those cases.

          Battered-spouse cases

          Various state courts have concluded that a defendant's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is not violated when a district court orders him or her to undergo a compulsory psychiatric examination after he or she claims self-defense based upon battered-spouse

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syndrome.4 In State v. Briand, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that the trial court had the inherent authority to order the psychiatric examination of the defendant, even though she did not raise an insanity defense, based upon the trial court's “ responsibilities both to promote the ascertainment of truth and to insure the orderliness of judicial proceedings." 5 In State v. Manning, the Ohio Court of Appeals noted that a compelled psychiatric examination was proper because the defendant placed his or her state of mind directly into issue.6 To prevent a potential asymmetry, the Supreme Court of Florida, in State v. Hickson, concluded that the defendant faced the following choice: (1) if she wanted to introduce defense expert testimony about her own particular state of mind,...

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