540 F.2d 975 (9th Cir. 1976), 73-2955, De Kaplany v. Enomoto

Docket Nº:73-2955.
Citation:540 F.2d 975
Party Name:Geza de KAPLANY, Petitioner-Appellant, v. J. J. ENOMOTO, [*] Director of California Department of Corrections, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:July 09, 1976
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 975

540 F.2d 975 (9th Cir. 1976)

Geza de KAPLANY, Petitioner-Appellant,


J. J. ENOMOTO, [*] Director of California

Department of Corrections, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 73-2955.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 9, 1976

Page 976

Joseph M. Malkin (argued), Los Angeles, Cal., for petitioner-appellant.

Karl S. Mayer, Deputy Atty. Gen. (argued), San Francisco, Cal., for respondent-appellee.



SNEED, Circuit Judge:

This case comes before us on appeal from the district court's denial of de Kaplany's habeas corpus petition seeking relief from his 1963 state conviction. The petitioner asserts that his constitutional rights were violated in four separate respects. The first such respect is that the failure of the trial court to conduct a hearing on de Kaplany's competence to stand trial constituted a denial of due process. The second is that his mental illness substantially impaired his ability to make a reasoned choice with respect to whether to plead guilty or not and that as a consequence his plea of guilty during the "guilt phase" 1 was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made. The third respect in which de Kaplany alleges his constitutional rights were impaired is that ineffective counsel deprived him of a fair trial. Finally, he contends that the massive, pervasive, and prejudicial publicity that attended his prosecution deprived him of a fair trial.

The district court, after a thorough and comprehensive hearing, denied the petition in all respects. We affirm the district court in all respects. 2

Page 977


Absence of Hearing On Competency To Stand Trial.

Much of petitioner's effort is directed toward establishing that prior to judgment in the state proceedings in which he was convicted the judge conducting such proceedings ought to have entertained a bona fide doubt about the competency of the petitioner to stand trial and, in keeping with the teaching of Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966) and Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975), should have ordered a hearing to determine such competency. The evaluation of this contention requires both a brief description of the petitioner's trial and certain portions of the evidence presented therein as well as an analysis of the applicable legal principles.

  1. The Trial.

    We turn first to the brief description of the trial and the pertinent evidence. The district court in which this petition was heard set forth in its opinion a chronology of events which we adopt and set forth in the margin. 3 This chronology reveals that prior to the commencement of jury selection on January 7, 1963 three psychiatrists appointed by the trial court had examined the petitioner and that two of them, Drs. Johnsen and Rappaport, had filed their written reports with the trial court. Dr. Johnsen's report stated that the petitioner was "sane at the time of the commission of the alleged crime and that he is presently sane." Dr. Rappaport in his report stated that the petitioner was "presently suffering from no mental illness and is able to cooperate with counsel and to assist counsel in the preparation and presentation of a rational

    Page 978

    defense." The third report, that of Dr. Shoor, was filed on February 8, 1963 and stated that, while the petitioner displayed "some suicidal thinking of the obsessional variety," he was "sane now and at the time of the commission of the alleged offense."

    On January 14, 1963, the guilt phase of the petitioner's trial began. On the second day of the trial, in response to the prosecution's exhibiting in the courtroom a gruesome morgue photograph of his slain wife's body, the petitioner jumped to his feet shouting "No, no, what did you do to her?" He was forcibly restrained and reseated. The next day petitioner changed his plea to guilty. The hearing in the district court on this petition contains testimony by petitioner's attorney in the state trial that the guilty plea was a vital part of his strategy to preclude a long trial on guilt during which the jury repeatedly would be confronted with the gruesome nature of the petitioner's crime. By moving quickly to the sanity phase the attorney believed the petitioner would be positioned more favorably with respect to the jury. The habeas hearing also indicates, however, that the petitioner resisted this strategy for some time although its purpose was known to him. His resistance sprang from his belief that he was not guilty because he had not intended to kill his wife. Although he asserted his resistance was broken by coercion on the part of his attorney, this was vigorously denied by the attorney and the district court found that he was not coerced. This finding is adequately supported by the evidence and is not clearly erroneous.

    The state trial court asked petitioner's attorney at the time of the guilty plea whether he had explained to the petitioner the nature and consequences of his plea. The attorney said he had. The trial court, in a manner somewhat less elaborate than is the practice since Boykin v. Alabama,395 U.S. 238, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 (1969), 4 asked de Kaplany whether he knew that he had been indicted for murdering his wife, whether he had discussed the matter with his counsel, and whether he fully understood the consequences of the change of his plea. To which he answered responsively, but briefly, "Yes, your Honor", "Yes I did", and "I do". He was not asked if he understood the change of plea might subject him to the death penalty. There seems little doubt that he understood this, however, because his first attorney, who was not his attorney at trial, had informed him of the possibility of being sentenced to die.

    To summarize, immediately prior to the commencement of the sanity phase of the trial the state trial court judge confronted a situation in which (1) the reports of three psychiatrists had been filed, none of which expressly or impliedly had indicated that the petitioner was incompetent to stand trial, although none of them precisely had focused on this issue, (2) an attorney for the petitioner who apparently believed his client was competent to stand trial, (3) an outburst in the courtroom as already indicated, (4) a courtroom demeanor otherwise beyond reproach, and (5) a guilty plea apparently made voluntarily and understandingly.

    Commencing with the sanity phase of the proceedings the mental condition of de Kaplany properly became the center of attention. Three defense psychiatrists, Drs. Zaslow, Lee and Beaton, who at the request of

    Page 979

    defense counsel had examined de Kaplany, testified regarding his mental condition.

    Dr. Zaslow testified that on the basis of certain standard psychological tests the petitioner was "severely disturbed" and displayed an "impairment of the conceptual thinking and use of proper judgment." Dr. Beaton, in describing the petitioner's "present mental condition," stated that petitioner was "very seriously ill, psychiatrically, psychologically," but that he "knew the difference between right and wrong in the ordinary sense of intellectually knowing." Dr. Beaton also stated that in his opinion petitioner was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and that petitioner was "not able rationally, logically and consciously to govern his actions." During Dr. Beaton's testimony he also expressed the view he suspected the petitioner had had an "ambivalent relationship with his mother all along," and that his mother was a feminine ideal for him and a "somewhat rejecting woman." At this point, petitioner interrupted and said in a loud, high voice, "Don't talk like this about my mother."

    Dr. Lee, whose testimony was the most colorful offered by the defense, gave the opinion that the offense was committed during an acute schizophrenic reaction and that the petitioner suffered from a multiple personality syndrome. It also appeared during Dr. Lee's testimony that the petitioner in 1946 while a citizen and resident of Hungary had been hospitalized in a neuropsychiatric institution for several weeks.

    None of these witnesses expressed an opinion with respect to petitioner's competence to stand trial and plead guilty. Their testimony quite understandably was directed to the issue of responsibility for the crime.

    The prosecution's witnesses, Drs. Johnsen, Rappaport, and Shoor, testified along the lines set forth in their earlier reports. Dr. Johnsen testified that petitioner was "sane at the time of the commission of the alleged crime and that he is presently sane." The testimony of Dr. Rappaport indicated that petitioner was presently suffering from no mental illness and was competent to cooperate with counsel and to assist counsel in the presentation of a rational defense. Dr. Shoor testified that petitioner displayed "some suicidal thinking of the obsessional variety," but that he was "sane now and at the time of the commission of the alleged offense."

    The sanity phase of de Kaplany's state trial came to an end after 28 days when the jury returned a verdict finding him sane at the time of the commission of the crime. The penalty phase commenced four days later and transpired without any incidents relevant to this proceeding. On March 1, 1963, the jury returned a verdict of life imprisonment.

  2. The Law.

    The petitioner's contention regarding the state trial court's failure to conduct a hearing to determine his competency to stand trial rests upon Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966), as applied in Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975), Tillery v. Eyman, 492 F.2d 1056 (9th...

To continue reading