350 U.S. 366 (1956), 460, Greenwood v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 460
Citation:350 U.S. 366, 76 S.Ct. 410, 100 L.Ed. 412
Party Name:Greenwood v. United States
Case Date:March 05, 1956
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 366

350 U.S. 366 (1956)

76 S.Ct. 410, 100 L.Ed. 412



United States

No. 460

United States Supreme Court

March 5, 1956

Argued January 25, 1956




Acting under 18 U.S.C. §§ 4244-4248, a Federal District Court held a hearing on the sanity of petitioner, who had been indicted for robbery of a post office and felonious assault on a postal employee and had been found by authorities of a medical center for federal prisoners to be insane and unlikely to recover in the near future. After considering conflicting testimony and reports of psychiatrists, the Court found that petitioner was insane and so mentally incompetent that he could not stand trial; that, if released, he probably would endanger the safety of the officers, property, or other interests of the United States; and that no suitable arrangements for his custody and care, other than commitment to the custody of the Attorney General, were available. The Court therefore committed petitioner to the custody of the Attorney General until his sanity should be restored or his mental condition so improved that, if released, he would not endanger the safety of the officers, property, or other interests of the United States, or until suitable arrangements could be made for his custody and care by the State of his residence.

Held: the District Court's action is sustained. Pp. 367-376.

(a) The statute deals not only with problems of temporary mental disorder, but also with mental disability which seems more than temporary. Pp. 373-374.

(b) As here construed, the statute is within the power of Congress under the Necessary and Proper Clause, Art. I, § 8, cl. 18. Pp. 375-376.

219 F.2d 376 affirmed.

Page 367

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves the construction and constitutional validity of the Act of September 7, 1949, 63 Stat. 686, now codified in 18 U.S.C. §§ 4244-4248,

To provide for the care and custody of insane persons charged with or convicted of offenses against the United States, and for other purposes.

Section 4244 provides a procedure for determining mental incompetency during the period "after arrest and prior to the imposition of sentence or prior to the expiration of any period of probation."1 Section 4245 sets up a similar procedure for persons in prison believed to have been mentally incompetent at the time of their trial when the issue was not raised or determined before or during trial. Section 4246 states that, whenever the trial court shall determine, under §§ 4244 and 4245, that an accused

Page 368

is or was mentally incompetent, the court may commit the accused to the custody of the Attorney General until the accused is mentally competent to stand trial or until the pending charges against him are disposed of according to law. Section 4246 further provides that, if the court, after hearing as provided in the preceding §§ 4244 and 4245, finds that the conditions specified in § 4247 exist, the commitment shall be governed by § 4248.2 Section 4247 states that, when a prisoner's sentence is about to expire and the prison board of examiners finds him insane and a probable danger to the officers, property, or other interests of the United States, then the court shall hold a hearing, and, if it determines that those conditions exist, it may commit the prisoner to the custody of the Attorney General.3 Under § 4248, the

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commitment shall run until sanity is restored, or until the prisoner's condition is so improved that he will not endanger the officers, property, or other interests of the United States, or until suitable arrangements are made for the care of the prisoner by his State of residence -- reserving to the prisoner his right to establish his eligibility to release by writ of habeas corpus.4

Petitioner, a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, was indicted on November 20, 1952, by a grand jury of the Western District of Missouri on two counts, for robbery from a United States Post Office in Kansas City, Missouri, and for felonious assault there on a postal employee. Under Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, petitioner signed a waiver of trial in the Western District of Missouri and was transferred to the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Ohio. Acting on the suggestion of appointed counsel, the district judge ordered petitioner examined by a psychiatrist. After a hearing in which the examining psychiatrist testified that it was doubtful that petitioner, because of his mental condition, could have fully understood the significance of the waiver he signed, the District Court, on February 2, 1953, remanded

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the case to the District Court for the Western District of Missouri for disposition.

That court ordered the accused delivered to the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Springfield, Missouri, for the purpose of ascertaining his mental condition. On April 15, 1953, the Chief of the Psychiatric Service at the Medical Center filed his report concluding that the accused was legally insane in that he was unable to choose between right and wrong and could not, by reason of his mental condition, adequately cooperate with counsel in his own defense.

Petitioner was then transferred to jail, but, on November 16, 1953, the District Court entered an order returning him to the Medical Center for determination whether he was acutely or chronically insane. The report of the Neuropsychiatric Staff of the Medical Center, filed February 1, 1954, indicated that petitioner was "psychotic and incompetent," that "it is unlikely that this subject will regain his sanity in the near future," and recommended that "consideration be given to transferring this subject to a state hospital in his state of residence." The District Court, on the following day, ordered a further hearing [76 S.Ct. 413] under § 4246 to "resolve the power to commit defendant as mentally defective under the conditions specified in Section 4247. . . ," and, for that purpose, requested the Director and Board of Examiners of the Medical Center to certify whether, in their judgment, the defendant, if released, would

probably endanger the safety of the officers, the property, or other interests of the United States, and that suitable arrangements for the custody and care of the [defendant] are not otherwise available.

The report of the Board, dated February 4, 1954, concluded that the accused remained "psychotic and incompetent," and stated that,

at the present time, there appears to be little likelihood of his recovering to the extent that he might be considered competent in the

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near future.

In reply to the request of the District Court,

[t]he Board agreed that this subject might be considered potentially dangerous to the extent that if released he might conceivably persist in criminal activities of the type with which he is presently charged. In considering this man's mental illness, the Board finds that he does not hold any fixed delusions concerning wanting to harm any person or group of persons, either officials of the government or otherwise, so that, in this respect, he probably would not constitute a danger to the safety of officers, property, or other interests of the United States. . . . The Board further recommends that this subject be considered a suitable candidate for state hospital care if suitable arrangements can be made.

In May, 1954, petitioner was transferred to the custody of the State of Ohio, where he was...

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