Davis v. State of Ala., No. 76-1273

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtLEWIS R. MORGAN
Citation545 F.2d 460
PartiesJames G. DAVIS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. STATE OF ALABAMA, Respondent-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 76-1273
Decision Date14 January 1977

Page 460

545 F.2d 460
James G. DAVIS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALABAMA, Respondent-Appellee.
No. 76-1273.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
Jan. 14, 1977.

Page 462

James G. Davis, pro se.

George G. Lynn (Court-appointed), Birmingham, Ala., for petitioner-appellant.

William J. Baxley, Atty. Gen., Carol Jean Smith, Asst. Atty. Gen., Montgomery, Ala., for respondent-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before RIVES, * GEWIN and MORGAN, Circuit Judges.

LEWIS R. MORGAN, Circuit Judge:

Petitioner James G. Davis appeals the denial of his petition for habeas corpus relief, sought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. The Circuit Court of Cullman County, Alabama convicted Davis of first degree murder on November 26, 1973. After exhausting his state remedies, 1 Davis filed the present petition 2 with the district court. Adopting the report of the United States Magistrate and holding no evidentiary hearing, the district court dismissed the petition.

On November 26, 1973, the day that Davis' trial was set to begin, his attorneys moved, pursuant to Ala.Code tit. 15, § 425, 3 for a mental examination of the defendant. 4 At the hearing on the motion, defense attorneys informed the court that they had learned a month before that defendant had undergone some psychiatric treatment in California in May of 1972; according to the statements of the attorneys at the hearing, this information, alone, prompted the § 425 motion. Besides the testimony of the defendant, the only evidence presented at the

Page 463

hearing related to the California treatment was a probation report from a Dr. Dean, a psychologist 5 who had treated defendant. According to defendant's testimony, a California court required, as a condition of defendant's probation on an assault and battery conviction, that defendant see Dr. Dean. In addition, according to defendant, 6 the local welfare department, which had removed defendant's children from his and his wife's custody, stated that they would return the children only upon a satisfactory report from Dr. Dean. 7 Dr. Dean's report to the probation department merely stated that he had evaluated defendant's behavior and determined that he and his wife were living together harmoniously and that Davis had decreased his drinking. 8 Upon Dr. Dean's recommendation that Davis no longer needed treatment, he and his wife again received custody of their children. 9 After hearing the above evidence, the trial court denied the § 425 motion, noting that this evidence was insufficient to require a § 425 mental examination. 10 Defense counsel then requested a continuance so that they could gather more evidence to aid in their preparation of Davis' insanity defense; the trial court likewise denied this motion.

Issues before this court on this appeal concern the effect of the trial court's denial of both motions on defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial. Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975); Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501, 96 S.Ct. 1691, 48 L.Ed.2d 126 (1976). We first examine the denial of the § 425 motion as that denial related to defendant's alleged incompetence to stand trial. While defendant's appellate counsel admittedly does not pursue this issue with much vigor, instead concentrating on the relation of the § 425 denial to the substantive defense of insanity at the time of commission of the crime, we nevertheless find that Davis' pro se complaint, liberally read, contains such a claim. We therefore, address this issue.

Trial of an accused while he is incompetent violates due process. Bishop v. United States, 350 U.S. 961, 76 S.Ct. 440, 100 L.Ed. 835 (1956); Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966); Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975). The Supreme Court has held that the test for determining mental competency to stand trial, as distinguished from the standard to determine mental culpability for the criminal act, itself, is

whether (the defendant) 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 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 court has held that analysis of the issue of competency is two-fold: first, a defendant has a substantive right not to be tried while he is incompetent; 11 second, pursuant to Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966), the defendant also has a right to adequate procedures to safeguard this substantive right. Nathaniel v. Estelle,

Page 464

493 F.2d 794 (5th Cir. 1974). The Nathaniel panel reached this conclusion after observing that long before Pate 12 federal courts recognized as constitutionally mandated the guarantee against standing trial when incompetent. Only with Pate, however, could a federal habeas petitioner raise not only incompetence in fact, but also, in a proper case, the trial court's failure to determine competence contemporaneous with trial. Nathaniel, 493 F.2d at 796-97. Examining the Pate issue first, we shall follow a similar bifurcated approach in our analysis.

Essential to a claim that the trial court violated one's procedural due process rights, pursuant to Pate's mandate, by not determining competence at the time of trial is a showing that the defendant presented evidence raising the issue of competency, Nathaniel, 493 F.2d at 797. Accord, Grissom v. Wainwright, 494 F.2d 30 (5th Cir. 1974). Tyler v. Beto,391 F.2d 993 (5th Cir. 1968) cert. denied, 393 U.S. 1030, 89 S.Ct. 642, 21 L.Ed.2d 574 (1969). Obviously, one cannot fault a trial court judge for failing to determine a question that he has no reason to believe is in issue. Yet, the Supreme Court has indicated that an explicitly worded motion for a competency hearing is not the only signal to trigger procedures that provide for a determination of competency. Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. at 384, 86 S.Ct. at 841, 15 L.Ed.2d at 821; Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. at 176-77, 95 S.Ct. at 906, 43 L.Ed.2d at 116. See also Lee v. Alabama, 386 F.2d 97 (5th Cir. 1967) (en banc ) cert. denied, 395 U.S. 927, 89 S.Ct. 1787, 23 L.Ed.2d 246 (1969). Rather, if the defendant has presented evidence to the trial court, before or during trial, that raises a "bona fide doubt," of his competence, Pate, 383 U.S. at 385, 86 S.Ct. at 842, 15 L.Ed.2d at 822, the trial court's failure to make further inquiry denies that defendant his constitutional right to a fair trial. While the Supreme Court has not prescribed a general standard regarding the nature or quantum of evidence necessary to require resort to an adequate procedure, it has stated that three factors should be considered. These factors are: existence of a history of irrational behavior; defendant's demeanor at trial, and prior medical opinion. Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. at 180, 95 S.Ct. at 907, 43 L.Ed.2d at 118. Examining the present case in light of the considerations discussed above, we note that the defense never raised the issue of competency either prior to or during the trial. While the defense attorneys did make a § 425 motion for a mental examination, this court has held that such a motion, alone, does not place defendant's competence in issue. 13 Lee v. Alabama, 386 F.2d 97 (5th Cir. 1967) (en banc ). Accord, Seibold v. Daniels, 337 F.Supp. 210, 214 (M.D.Ala.1972). In addition, the remarks of both the trial judge and defense counsel, as contained in the trial court record, make clear that all parties understood the motion to be directed toward obtaining evidence relevant to defendant's substantive defense of insanity. 14

Having determined that defendant did not raise the issue of competency, we look to the record to determine if, in light of the three factors listed in Drope, indicia suggesting a bona fide doubt as to defendant's competence existed at trial. First, we note that while domestic quarrels occasionally clouded...

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39 practice notes
  • Goode v. Wainwright, No. 82-5244
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • May 2, 1983
    ...Pedrero v. Wainwright, 590 F.2d 1383, 1387 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 943, 100 S.Ct. 299, 62 L.Ed.2d 310 (1979); Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460, 464 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 957, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977); see Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 172-73, 95 S.Ct. 89......
  • Davis v. State of Ala., No. 78-1165
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 13, 1979
    ...grounds but remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine if Davis had received the effective assistance of counsel. Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460, 467 (5th Cir.), Cert. denied, 431 U.S. 957, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977). On remand a hearing was held before a magistrate, who rec......
  • Thompson v. Johnson, No. Civ.A. H-97-1118.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 3, 1998
    ...judge for failing to determine a question that he has no reason to believe is an issue.'" 600 F.2d at 1093 (quoting Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460, 464 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 957, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977)). Therefore, Thompson's claim of trial court error must b......
  • Wilson v. Butler, No. 86-3537
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 24, 1987
    ...Holmes v. King, 709 F.2d 965, 966 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 984, 104 S.Ct. 428, 78 L.Ed.2d 362 (1983); Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460, 463 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 937, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977); Bruce v. Estelle, 483 F.2d 1031, 1036 (5th Cir.1973), cert. denie......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • Goode v. Wainwright, No. 82-5244
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • May 2, 1983
    ...Pedrero v. Wainwright, 590 F.2d 1383, 1387 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 943, 100 S.Ct. 299, 62 L.Ed.2d 310 (1979); Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460, 464 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 957, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977); see Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 172-73, 95 S.Ct. 89......
  • Davis v. State of Ala., No. 78-1165
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 13, 1979
    ...grounds but remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine if Davis had received the effective assistance of counsel. Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460, 467 (5th Cir.), Cert. denied, 431 U.S. 957, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977). On remand a hearing was held before a magistrate, who rec......
  • Thompson v. Johnson, No. Civ.A. H-97-1118.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 3, 1998
    ...judge for failing to determine a question that he has no reason to believe is an issue.'" 600 F.2d at 1093 (quoting Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460, 464 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 957, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977)). Therefore, Thompson's claim of trial court error must b......
  • Wilson v. Butler, No. 86-3537
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 24, 1987
    ...Holmes v. King, 709 F.2d 965, 966 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 984, 104 S.Ct. 428, 78 L.Ed.2d 362 (1983); Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460, 463 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 937, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977); Bruce v. Estelle, 483 F.2d 1031, 1036 (5th Cir.1973), cert. denie......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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