Council v. Catoe, No. 25833.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtChief Justice TOAL
Citation359 S.C. 120,597 S.E.2d 782
PartiesDonney S. COUNCIL, Respondent, v. William D. CATOE, Commissioner, South Carolina Department of Corrections, and Henry Dargan McMaster, S.C. Attorney General, Petitioners.
Docket NumberNo. 25833.
Decision Date01 June 2004

359 S.C. 120
597 S.E.2d 782

Donney S. COUNCIL, Respondent,
v.
William D. CATOE, Commissioner, South Carolina Department of Corrections, and Henry Dargan McMaster, S.C. Attorney General, Petitioners

No. 25833.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Submitted November 19, 2003.

Decided June 1, 2004.

Rehearing Denied June 24, 2004.


359 S.C. 122
Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, all of Columbia, for Petitioner

Teresa L. Norris, of the Center for Capital Litigation, and Theresa Lee Clement, of Clement Law Office, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

John F. Hardaway, of Columbia, for Guardian Ad Litem.

359 S.C. 123
Chief Justice TOAL

This Court granted the State's petition for certiorari to review whether the post-conviction relief (PCR) judge erroneously granted Donney Council's (respondent) motion to stay the PCR proceedings until he was deemed competent. We reverse the PCR judge's imposition of an indefinite stay and adopt a new approach for determining whether a petitioner's PCR hearing should go forward when he claims incompetence.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Respondent was convicted of murder, administering poison, burglary, larceny, grand larceny of a motor vehicle, kidnapping, and criminal sexual assault in the first degree. The jury sentenced him to death for murder and gave him various concurrent and consecutive sentences for the other offenses. This Court affirmed the convictions and sentences. State v. Council, 335 S.C. 1, 515 S.E.2d 508 (1999).

Following the denial of certiorari on his direct appeal, respondent filed an application for PCR. Subsequently, he filed a motion pro se to waive further PCR proceedings and be executed. On January 19, 2000, this Court issued an order staying respondent's execution, allowing him to file an application for PCR. After the PCR judge appointed counsel for respondent, respondent filed an amended PCR petition and motion to indefinitely stay the PCR proceedings. A hearing was held on December 8, 2000, to review respondent's request to waive PCR and be executed. Respondent's testimony clearly indicated that he was mentally unstable,1 and therefore the PCR judge ordered that the Department of Mental Health (DMH) conduct a competency evaluation.

The DMH doctors diagnosed respondent with Schizophrenia, Undifferentiated type. The PCR judge found respondent to be incompetent and granted respondent's motion to indefinitely stay the PCR proceedings until respondent regained his competency.

359 S.C. 124
This Court granted the State's petition for writ of certiorari to review the following question
Did the PCR judge err in indefinitely staying respondent's PCR proceedings until respondent became mentally competent?

LAW/ANALYSIS

The State asserts that the PCR court abused its discretion in granting respondent's motion to stay the PCR proceedings until respondent was deemed competent.

The issue of whether a prisoner must be competent to collaterally challenge his conviction is a question of first impression in this state. While the State cannot execute an incompetent death-sentenced inmate, Singleton v. State, 313 S.C. 75, 437 S.E.2d 53 (1993),2 and the law prohibits a criminal trial of an incompetent defendant, Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378, 86 S.Ct. 836, 838, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966); State v. Bell, 293 S.C. 391, 395-396, 360 S.E.2d 706 (1987), neither this Court nor the General Assembly has determined whether a mentally incompetent prisoner may seek an indefinite stay for his PCR proceedings.

ORDER FROM THE PCR COURT

In his Order, the PCR judge set forth six reasons for his grant of an indefinite stay. First, this case is a capital case, thus, respondent will remain incarcerated for the remainder of his life, regardless of the outcome of the PCR proceeding. Second, the issues that respondent presented in his PCR petition are extremely fact intensive, which will ultimately require respondent's assistance. Third, even if the court continued the proceedings and allowed respondent to submit successive PCRs,3 federal law would prohibit respondent

359 S.C. 125
from filing successive habeas corpus petitions in the event a habeas issue is later discovered. 28 U.S.C. 2244(b) (West Supp. 2003). Fourth, the State's interests are "minimally impaired" if the court stays the proceedings, while respondent's interest in effectively presenting his collateral challenge would be "severely impaired." Fifth, an indefinite stay permits the court to retain jurisdiction so that it may regularly evaluate respondent's mental health and efforts to regain mental competence. Sixth, if the court refused to grant the indefinite stay, piecemeal litigation would likely ensue once respondent regained his mental competency.

We find that the trial judge erred in staying the proceedings because (1) a PCR proceeding is civil, not criminal; (2) the judge incorrectly concluded that, based on two opinions from this Court, this Court would rule that incompetent prisoners must regain competence before a PCR proceeding is held; and (3) respondents grounds for relief are not "all extraordinarily fact intensive" and do not warrant the assistance of a mentally competent petitioner. We adopt the analysis employed in other jurisdictions that allows for PCR proceedings of mentally incompetent petitioners to go forward.

CIVIL ACTION

A PCR action is a civil action. See Wade v. State, 348 S.C. 255, 259, 559 S.E.2d 843, 844 (2002) (citing 17 S.C. Jur. 2 (1993) ("State post-conviction relief is a civil action by which a person convicted of, or sentenced for, a crime, and who is either detained or faces a possibility of detention, institutes a proceeding to challenge a court's conviction or sentence on constitutional grounds.")). Therefore, the constitutional protections that forbid a criminal trial of a mentally incompetent defendant do not apply. See Pate, 383 U.S. at 378, 86 S.Ct. at 838; Bell, 293 S.C. at 395-396, 360 S.E.2d at 708.

MISINTERPRETATION OF TWO S.C. SUPREME COURT OPINIONS

Respondents brief and the PCR judge's Order incorrectly presume that this Court has impliedly held that PCR proceedings for a mentally incompetent petitioner must be stayed. Respondent...

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13 practice notes
  • Pettinato v. Eagleton, C.A. No. 2:05-1226 PMD RSC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • 21 Septiembre 2006
    ...a PCR judge to grant a prisoner's motion to stay PCR proceedings indefinitely until the prisoner regained competency. Council v. Catoe, 359 S.C. 120, 597 S.E.2d 782 (2004). Specifically, the court found that because a PCR action is a civil action, "the constitutional protections that forbid......
  • Council v. State, No. 26543.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 29 Diciembre 2008
    ...Court to review the circuit court's order. This Court set aside the stay and ordered the PCR proceedings to continue. Council v. Catoe, 359 S.C. 120, 597 S.E.2d 782 Following this Court's decision, Respondent filed two amended applications. In his final application, Respondent alleged he wa......
  • The State v. Motts, No. 26947.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 21 Marzo 2011
    ...State from executing an incompetent individual. Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 106 S.Ct. 2595, 91 L.Ed.2d 335 (1986); Council v. Catoe, 359 S.C. 120, 597 S.E.2d 782 (2004); Singleton, 313 S.C. at 79, 437 S.E.2d at 56. In Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 127 S.Ct. 2842, 168 L.Ed.2d 66......
  • Hughes v. State, No. 26115.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 13 Febrero 2006
    ...us when, acting sua sponte on March 7, 2003, we ordered Petitioner's appeal be held in abeyance pending a decision in Council v. Catoe, 359 S.C. 120, 597 S.E.2d 782 (2004). We subsequently held in Council that a mentally incompetent PCR applicant is not entitled to a stay of proceedings pen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Pettinato v. Eagleton, C.A. No. 2:05-1226 PMD RSC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • 21 Septiembre 2006
    ...a PCR judge to grant a prisoner's motion to stay PCR proceedings indefinitely until the prisoner regained competency. Council v. Catoe, 359 S.C. 120, 597 S.E.2d 782 (2004). Specifically, the court found that because a PCR action is a civil action, "the constitutional protections that forbid......
  • Council v. State, No. 26543.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 29 Diciembre 2008
    ...Court to review the circuit court's order. This Court set aside the stay and ordered the PCR proceedings to continue. Council v. Catoe, 359 S.C. 120, 597 S.E.2d 782 Following this Court's decision, Respondent filed two amended applications. In his final application, Respondent alleged he wa......
  • The State v. Motts, No. 26947.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 21 Marzo 2011
    ...State from executing an incompetent individual. Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 106 S.Ct. 2595, 91 L.Ed.2d 335 (1986); Council v. Catoe, 359 S.C. 120, 597 S.E.2d 782 (2004); Singleton, 313 S.C. at 79, 437 S.E.2d at 56. In Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 127 S.Ct. 2842, 168 L.Ed.2d 66......
  • Hughes v. State, No. 26115.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 13 Febrero 2006
    ...us when, acting sua sponte on March 7, 2003, we ordered Petitioner's appeal be held in abeyance pending a decision in Council v. Catoe, 359 S.C. 120, 597 S.E.2d 782 (2004). We subsequently held in Council that a mentally incompetent PCR applicant is not entitled to a stay of proceedings pen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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