696 F.2d 464 (6th Cir. 1983), 82-3399, Williams v. Bordenkircher

Docket Nº:82-3399.
Citation:696 F.2d 464
Party Name:Bill Hugo WILLIAMS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Donald E. BORDENKIRCHER, Supt., Kentucky State Penitentiary, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:January 03, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 464

696 F.2d 464 (6th Cir. 1983)

Bill Hugo WILLIAMS, Petitioner-Appellant,


Donald E. BORDENKIRCHER, Supt., Kentucky State Penitentiary,


No. 82-3399.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 3, 1983

Argued Nov. 11, 1982.

Page 465

R. Michael Murphy, Federal Public Defender, Lexington, Ky., for petitioner-appellant.

Carl T. Miller, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Frankfort, Ky., for respondent-appellee.

Before ENGEL and KEITH, Circuit Judges, and PECK, Senior Circuit Judge.

KEITH, Circuit Judge.

Appellant appeals from a judgment dismissing his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court held that the state trial court did not err when it did not sua sponte hold an evidentiary hearing on Appellant's competency to plead guilty to criminal charges.

Appellant was charged in the Laurel Circuit Court with two counts of malicious shooting and wounding with intent to kill. The charges stemmed from the shooting and wounding of two policemen in London, Kentucky. At the request of his mother and upon the recommendation of two psychiatrists, Appellant was committed to the Central State Hospital for a period of sixty days. On January 11, 1973, the forensic psychiatrist at Central reported "the Petitioner to be competent to stand trial and aid in his defense."

On January 22, 1973, the trial judge found Appellant competent to stand trial. The next day, January 23, Appellant appeared with his attorney and entered a plea of guilty to the two charges. He was questioned by the trial court on his understanding of the consequences of his actions in open court.

After the questioning of Appellant and his attorney, Appellant was allowed to make a statement. The court heard the statement before accepting the guilty plea. Appellant explained that he had a history of mental illness, and was presently in need of medication. He further stated that he had several physical ailments, and was in financial difficulty. He declared, "I hurt all over. I hurt mentally. I hurt physically."

No other evidence was presented which suggested that there might be a need for further consideration of Appellant's competency to enter a guilty plea. Mr. Handy, the court-appointed attorney, answered that he had apprised Appellant of his rights and the consequences of pleading guilty. He did not alert the court to any potential incompetency problems.

Appellant's demeanor at the arraignment proceeding was not unusual in any way. His answers to the court's questions were responsive, and his statement was coherent and lucid. Moreover, Appellant responded that he was aware of what he was doing, and had understood the advice given to him by his attorney. He stated that he was not under the influence of any drugs which would affect his ability to make rational and intelligent decisions.

On January 4, 1974, the trial court denied a motion by Appellant to vacate its judgment

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of guilty based on the earlier plea. The court's order denying the motion was upheld by the Kentucky Court of Appeals (now Kentucky Supreme Court.) Appellant's subsequent petition for a writ of habeas corpus was referred to a United States magistrate. The magistrate, after holding an evidentiary hearing, recommended that the writ be denied. The district court agreed, denied the writ, and dismissed the action.

Appellant maintains that his remarks at the arraignment proceeding should have put the trial court on notice that he might not have been competent to enter a guilty plea. It is argued that the trial court was constitutionally required to hold an evidentiary hearing on Appellant's mental capacity. Thus each of the examining doctors could be subjected to cross-examination. We disagree.

The constitutional test is whether the accused "has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding--and whether he has a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against him." Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960). This is the same standard applied to questions of whether the defendant has the requisite mental capacity to stand trial. United States v. Harlan, 480 F.2d 515, 517 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1006, 94 S.Ct. 364, 38 L.Ed.2d 242 (1973); Allard v. Helgemoe, 572 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 858, 99 S.Ct. 175, 58 L.Ed.2d 166 (1978).

Appellant relies on the Supreme Court's decisions in 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). In Pate, the Supreme Court held that where...

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