947 N.W.2d 296 (Neb. 2020), S-19-687, State v. Lauhead

Docket NºS-19-687.
Citation947 N.W.2d 296, 306 Neb. 701
Opinion JudgeFreudenberg, J.
Party NameSTATE of Nebraska, appellee, v. Ronald L. LAUHEAD, appellant.
AttorneyCharles D. Brewster, Kearney, of Anderson, Klein, Brewster & Brandt, for appellant. Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Jordan Osborne, for appellee.
Judge PanelHeavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.
Case DateAugust 07, 2020
CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska

Page 296

947 N.W.2d 296 (Neb. 2020)

306 Neb. 701

STATE of Nebraska, appellee,

v.

Ronald L. LAUHEAD, appellant.

No. S-19-687.

Supreme Court of Nebraska.

August 7, 2020.

Page 297

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 298

1. Mental Competency: Appeal and Error. The trial court's determination of competency will not be disturbed unless there is insufficient evidence to support the finding.

2.

Sentences: Appeal and Error. An appellate court will not disturb a sentence imposed within the statutory limits absent an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

3. Trial: Pleas: Mental Competency. A person is competent to plead or stand trial if he or she has the capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him or her, to comprehend his or her own condition in reference to such proceedings, and to make a rational defense.

4. Judgments: Appeal and Error. An abuse of discretion occurs when a trial court's decision is based upon reasons that are untenable or unreasonable or if its action is clearly against justice or conscience, reason, and evidence.

5. Sentences. When imposing a sentence, a sentencing judge should consider the defendant's (1) age, (2) mentality, (3) education and experience, (4) social and cultural background, (5) past criminal record or record of law-abiding conduct, and (6) motivation for the offense, as well as (7) the nature of the offense, and (8) the amount of violence involved in the commission of the crime.

Appeal from the District Court for Harlan County: Terri S. Harder, Judge. Affirmed.

Charles D. Brewster, Kearney, of Anderson, Klein, Brewster & Brandt, for appellant.

[306 Neb. 702] Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Jordan Osborne, for appellee.

Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.

Freudenberg, J.

INTRODUCTION

Ronald L. Lauhead was charged with five counts of first degree sexual assault of a child and five counts of child abuse. Before trial, he requested a competency evaluation pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-1823 (Reissue 2016). Lauhead was initially evaluated at the Lincoln Regional Center (the LRC) and found to be incompetent to stand trial. The district court ordered him to continue treatment at the LRC until his competency to stand trial could be restored. Lauhead was subsequently reevaluated by two doctors. Both doctors found Lauhead to be competent and recommended that he be provided accommodations. The district court found Lauhead competent to stand trial. Lauhead, subsequently, waived his right to a jury trial, and a bench trial based upon stipulated facts was held on the amended charges of one count of attempted first degree sexual assault of a child and one count of child abuse. Lauhead was found guilty and sentenced to incarceration for terms of 20 to 22 years and 3 years, respectively, to be served concurrently. Lauhead appeals.

BACKGROUND

In November 2016, Lauhead was charged with five counts of first degree sexual assault of a child and five counts of child abuse. During the proceedings, Lauhead made a motion to have a competency evaluation, which the district court granted. Lauhead was evaluated in February 2017 by Mindy Abel, who has a doctor's degree in clinical psychology and a law degree.

Page 299

Abel's evaluation details the three different tests administered and their results. To summarize, these tests showed that [306 Neb. 703] Lauhead has a mental impairment and that his IQ places him in the extremely low range of cognitive functioning. People in this range show impairment in their abilities for abstract thinking, executive functioning, short-term memory, and functional use of academic skills. Abel's report specifically related the testing results to the criteria outlined in State v. Guatney.1 Abel's evaluation opined that Lauhead was not competent to stand trial at that time.

In March 2017, a hearing on the issue of competency was held. Based on Abel's report, the district court found that Lauhead was mentally incompetent to stand trial, but there was a substantial probability that he would become competent in the foreseeable future. The district court ordered that Lauhead be committed to the LRC for treatment until his competency could be restored.

Abel provided two subsequent reports to the district court. In October 2017, Abel reported that Lauhead was incompetent to be a witness against a codefendant in a related criminal matter. However, in December 2017, Abel reported that Lauhead could be competent to stand trial if certain accommodations were made. Abel described these accommodations as taking additional time and effort to explain the proceedings to Lauhead and to ensure that he understands what is going on. Abel opined that Lauhead had reached maximum benefit of the competency restoration services provided at the LRC and that Lauhead was now able to understand and assist in his defense if provided the recommended accommodations. Abel indicated that the burden to provide these accommodations would fall on Lauhead's counsel.

A bifurcated hearing was held regarding Lauhead's competence in January and May 2018. Abel's report was provided to the district court during the January portion of the hearing. However, while the issue of competency was pending, the State moved for an additional competency evaluation. The district [306 Neb. 704] court authorized the State's requested competency evaluation by Theodore J. DeLaet, Ph.D. DeLaet conducted similar tests to those administered by Abel and reviewed files provided about Lauhead's treatment at the LRC.

During the May 2018 portion of the bifurcated competency hearing, the court received DeLaet's report over Lauhead's objections that DeLaet's examination and report were cumulative of Abel's reports already admitted. Further, DeLaet testified that Lauhead met the minimum requirements to be considered competent to stand trial. He qualified his competency opinion by providing detailed recommendations for accommodations that would be essential for Lauhead to be able to understand the nature and extent of the charges and the proceedings against him. For example, during any questioning of Lauhead, it would be necessary to use simple language, provide him time to explain his responses, and cover one point at a time. In June, based upon the evidence presented during the competency hearing, the district court found Lauhead competent to stand trial.

Lauhead made a motion to request accommodations in preparation for trial. Lauhead also submitted a written brief requesting a consultant to help identify what accommodations would be needed at trial. The district court denied Lauhead's request for a disability consultant to be appointed.

Page 300

After several additional pretrial motions and hearings, Lauhead agreed to resolve this matter through a bench trial based upon a stipulated set of facts. In exchange for Lauhead's procedural concession, the State dismissed several charges. The amended information contained one count of attempted first degree sexual assault of a child and one count of child abuse. Based upon its review of the parties stipulated set...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 practice notes
  • State v. Cheairs, 042721 NECA, A-20-389
    • United States
    • Nebraska Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • April 27, 2021
    ...untenable or unreasonable or if its action is clearly against justice or conscience, reason, and evidence. State v. Lauhead, 306 Neb. 701, 947 N.W.2d 296 We find no abuse of discretion here. Cheairs argues only that the probation conditions were not reasonably related to......
1 cases
  • State v. Cheairs, 042721 NECA, A-20-389
    • United States
    • Nebraska Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • April 27, 2021
    ...untenable or unreasonable or if its action is clearly against justice or conscience, reason, and evidence. State v. Lauhead, 306 Neb. 701, 947 N.W.2d 296 We find no abuse of discretion here. Cheairs argues only that the probation conditions were not reasonably related to......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT