Demosthenes v. Baal, No. A-857

CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; BLACKMUN; BRENNAN
Citation109 L.Ed.2d 762,110 S.Ct. 2223,495 U.S. 731
PartiesPeter DEMOSTHENES, Warden, et al. v. Edwin and Doris BAAL
Docket NumberNo. A-857
Decision Date03 June 1990

495 U.S. 731
110 S.Ct. 2223
109 L.Ed.2d 762
Peter DEMOSTHENES, Warden, et al.

v.

Edwin and Doris BAAL.

No. A-857.
June 3, 1990.

Page 732

PER CURIAM.

The State of Nevada has moved to vacate an order of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granting a stay of the execution of Thomas E. Baal. We grant the State's motion to vacate the stay.

I

Thomas E. Baal was convicted and sentenced to death in Nevada District Court for first-degree murder and robbery with use of a deadly weapon. Evidence indicated that after attempting to rob Frances P. Maves, Baal stabbed her numerous times, took her car, and fled. Maves was pronounced dead some hours later. Police officers arrested Baal in Reno on February 28, 1988. After being given his Miranda warnings, Baal confessed to the robbery and murder.

In March 1988, two psychiatrists examined Baal and found that Baal was competent to stand trial, able to understand right from wrong at the time of the alleged offense, and disturbed but not psychotic. In June 1988, Baal was arraigned and pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. A third psychiatrist, Dr. O'Gorman, was appointed to examine Baal, and, following an examination on August 31, 1988, concluded that Baal was competent to stand trial. On September 22, 1988, Baal pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and to robbery, both with use of a deadly weapon. A three-judge panel unanimously sentenced Baal to death. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed Baal's conviction and sentence, rejecting Baal's contention that he was incompetent to enter a guilty plea and that it was error not to conduct a competency hearing prior to accepting his pleas. Baal v. State, 106 Nev. 69, 787 P.2d 391 (1990).

Baal filed a petition for state postconviction relief, but, prior to the hearing, changed his mind and withdrew the petition. On May 24, 1990, the state postconviction court held an evidentiary hearing to determine Baal's competency. At that hearing, Baal testified that he did not want to continue

Page 733

any postconviction proceedings. He further testified that he knew the date he would be put to death, the reason he would be put to death, and that his waiver of postconviction relief would result in his death. A state psychiatrist testified that Baal was competent; a state prison official who had observed Baal also testified as to Baal's competence. The court also reviewed the reports of three psychiatrists who had examined Baal and concluded that he was competent to stand trial. Based on this evidence, the court held that Baal was aware of his impending execution and of the reason for it, and thus was sane under the test set forth in Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 106 S.Ct. 2595, 91 L.Ed.2d 335 (1986). The court further held that Baal was in control of his faculties, was competent to choose to decline to pursue an appeal, and had made an intelligent waiver of his right to pursue postconviction relief.

Approximately one week later, on May 31, 1990, and hours before Baal's scheduled execution, Edwin and Doris Baal (Baal's parents) filed a petition for federal habeas corpus relief as "next friend" of Thomas E. Baal. As one of their grounds for relief, petitioners asserted: "Thomas Baal is not competent to waive federal review of his claims." In support of this claim, petitioners relied on an affidavit of a non-examining psychiatrist, Dr. Jerry Howle, and an affidavit of Doris Baal.

The United States District Court conducted a hearing and denied petitioners' application for stay of execution, holding that, under this Court's recent decision in Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 110 S.Ct. 1717, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990), petitioners had failed to establish that the court had jurisdiction to entertain the petition. According to the District Court, petitioners had not provided an adequate explanation of why Baal could not appear on his own behalf to prosecute this action. Upon review of the record, the court found that all the evidence, other than the newly submitted affidavit of Dr. Howle, established that Baal was legally competent to understand the nature and consequences of his act and to represent his own interests in these proceed-

Page 734

ings. The court determined that Dr. Howle's affidavit was not based on a first-hand examination, was conclusory, and was insufficient to warrant a psychiatric hearing or additional psychiatric examinations of Baal. The court subsequently denied petitioners' motion for a certificate of probable cause. Petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

A divided panel of the Court of Appeals granted petitioners' certificate of probable cause and stayed Thomas Baal's execution. That court held that petitioners had made "some minimum showing of [Baal's] incompetence" and evidence in the record provided "at least an arguable basis for finding that a full evidentiary hearing on competence should have been held by the district court." Order in Baal v. Godinez, No. 90-157161 (CA9, June 2, 1990), pp. 3, 5. Judge Kozinski, in dissent, asserted that there was no substantial evidence of Baal's incompetence to warrant a further evidentiary hearing or to upset the Nevada District Court's finding that Baal was competent, which is entitled to a presumption of correctness upon federal habeas review. Dissent, at 2226, 2227.

II

In Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S., at 165, 110 S.Ct., at 1728, we held that "one necessary condition for 'next friend' standing in federal court is a showing by the proposed 'next friend' that the real party in interest is unable to litigate his own cause due to mental incapacity." See also Rosenberg v. United States, 346 U.S. 273, 291, 73 S.Ct. 1152, 1161, 97 L.Ed. 1607 (1953). This prerequisite is not satisfied "where an evidentiary hearing shows that the defendant has given a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his right to proceed." Whitmore, 495 U.S., at 165, 110 S.Ct., at 1728. In Whitmore, we relied on the competency findings made by the Arkansas Supreme Court and concluded that Whitmore lacked next-friend standing in federal court. Id., at 165-166, 110 S.Ct., at 1728-1729. In this case, the state court held such an evidentiary hearing just one week before petitioners brought this petition for habeas corpus.

Page 735

After reviewing the evidence and questioning Baal, the state court concluded that Baal had intelligently waived his right to pursue postconviction relief.

A state court's determinations on the merits of a factual issue are entitled to a presumption of correctness on federal habeas review. A federal court may not overturn such determinations unless it concludes that they are not "fairly supported by the record." See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(8). We have held that a state court's conclusion regarding a defendant's competency is entitled to such a presumption. Maggio v. Fulford, 462 U.S. 111, 117, 103 S.Ct. 2261, 2264, 76 L.Ed.2d 794 (1983). In this case, the state court's conclusion that Baal was competent to waive his right to further proceedings was "fairly supported by the record." Three psychiatrists who examined Baal had determined he was competent; a psychiatrist who had the opportunity to observe and talk to Baal testified that Baal was competent at the hearing; and the trial court concluded that Baal was competent after both observing Baal and questioning him extensively on the record. Accordingly, under § 2254(d)'s presumption of correctness, the state court's factual finding as to Baal's competence is binding on a federal habeas court. See Maggio v. Fulford, supra; see also Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 103 S.Ct. 843, 74 L.Ed.2d 646 (1983) (§ 2254(d)'s presumption of correctness required federal habeas court to...

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231 practice notes
  • Barnes v. Thompson, Nos. 94-4001
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 10, 1995
    ...presumption is rebutted when a federal court concludes that the finding is "not 'fairly supported by the record.' " Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 735, 110 S.Ct. 2223, 2225, 109 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990) (quoting 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254(d)(8)). 8 Here, the determination that Barnes knew about the ......
  • Billiot v. Epps, Civil Action No. 1:86CV549TSL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • November 3, 2009
    ...116 S.Ct. 457, 133 L.Ed.2d 383 (1995). A competency determination made by a state court is a factual issue. See Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 110 S.Ct. 2223, 109 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990). However, the standard by which competency is evaluated is a legal issue. See, e.g., Indiana v. Edwards, ......
  • Franklin v. Francis, No. C1-98-0136.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • February 27, 1998
    ...court "must make certain that an adequate basis exists for the exercise of federal power" before granting a stay. Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 737, 110 S.Ct. 2223, 109 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990). However, this Court is also mindful that, because of the "obviously irreversible nature of Page 9......
  • Hatch v. State of Okl., No. 94-6052
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • June 14, 1995
    ...not overturn such [factual] determinations unless it concludes that they are 'not fairly supported by the record.' " Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 735, 110 S.Ct. 2223, 2225, 109 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990) (per curiam) (quoting 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254(d)(8)). We review mixed questions of law and fa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
231 cases
  • Barnes v. Thompson, Nos. 94-4001
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 10, 1995
    ...presumption is rebutted when a federal court concludes that the finding is "not 'fairly supported by the record.' " Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 735, 110 S.Ct. 2223, 2225, 109 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990) (quoting 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254(d)(8)). 8 Here, the determination that Barnes knew about the ......
  • Billiot v. Epps, Civil Action No. 1:86CV549TSL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • November 3, 2009
    ...116 S.Ct. 457, 133 L.Ed.2d 383 (1995). A competency determination made by a state court is a factual issue. See Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 110 S.Ct. 2223, 109 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990). However, the standard by which competency is evaluated is a legal issue. See, e.g., Indiana v. Edwards, ......
  • Franklin v. Francis, No. C1-98-0136.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • February 27, 1998
    ...court "must make certain that an adequate basis exists for the exercise of federal power" before granting a stay. Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 737, 110 S.Ct. 2223, 109 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990). However, this Court is also mindful that, because of the "obviously irreversible nature of Page 9......
  • Hatch v. State of Okl., No. 94-6052
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • June 14, 1995
    ...not overturn such [factual] determinations unless it concludes that they are 'not fairly supported by the record.' " Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 735, 110 S.Ct. 2223, 2225, 109 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990) (per curiam) (quoting 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254(d)(8)). We review mixed questions of law and fa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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