Edwards v. State, No. 49S02-0705-CR-202.

Docket NºNo. 49S02-0705-CR-202.
Citation902 N.E.2d 821
Case DateMarch 17, 2009
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana
902 N.E.2d 821
Ahmad EDWARDS, Appellant (Defendant below),
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).
No. 49S02-0705-CR-202.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
March 17, 2009.

[902 N.E.2d 823]

Michael R. Fisher, Indianapolis, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Thomas M. Fisher, Solicitor General of Indiana, Justin F. Roebel, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

BOEHM, Justice.


We hold that the record supports a finding by the trial court that the defendant suffered from a severe mental illness to the point where he was not competent to conduct trial proceedings by himself. The denial of the defendant's request to act pro se at trial therefore did not violate either his federal or state constitutional right to self-representation.

Facts and Procedural History

The facts of this case are recited at length in Indiana v. Edwards (Edwards), ___ U.S. ___, 128 S.Ct. 2379, 171 L.Ed.2d 345 (2008), and Edwards v. State, 866 N.E.2d 252 (Ind.2007).

Defendant Ahmad Edwards was tried twice in connection with a 1999 theft and shooting in downtown Indianapolis. His first trial resulted in convictions of criminal recklessness and theft but a hung jury on charges of attempted murder and battery. At his retrial for attempted murder and battery, Edwards sought to proceed pro se. The trial court found Edwards mentally competent to stand trial under the standard set forth in Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960) (per curiam),1 but nevertheless denied Edwards's request to represent himself. Edwards was convicted on both charges.

Edwards appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Edwards's Sixth Amendment right to counsel included the right to represent himself. We granted transfer and noted that "the trial court's conclusion that Edwards was incapable of adequate self-representation was, at a minimum, reasonable." 866 N.E.2d at 260. However, we agreed with the Court of Appeals that United States Supreme Court precedent required that a defendant found mentally competent to stand trial be permitted to proceed pro se, and we invited the Supreme Court to consider this issue. Id. The Supreme Court granted the State's petition for writ of certiorari and vacated our judgment reversing the convictions. The Supreme Court held that

902 N.E.2d 824

the Constitution permits judges to take realistic account of the particular defendant's mental capacities by asking whether a defendant who seeks to conduct his own defense at trial is mentally competent to do so. That is to say, the Constitution permits States to insist upon representation by counsel for those competent enough to stand trial under Dusky but who still suffer from severe mental illness to the point where they are not competent to conduct trial proceedings by themselves.

Edwards, 128 S.Ct. at 2387-88. The case was remanded to us for further disposition. Id. at 2388. We now reconsider the issue in light of Edwards.

Standard of Review

Determinations of competency to stand trial under Dusky are reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard, reversed on appeal only if unsupported by the facts and circumstances before the trial court together with any reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom. See McManus v. State, 814 N.E.2d 253, 260-61 (Ind.2004); Brewer v. State, 646 N.E.2d 1382, 1385 (Ind.1995); Ferry v. State, 453 N.E.2d 207, 212 (Ind.1983); United States v. Magers, 535 F.3d 608, 610 (7th Cir. 2008).2

Although it is now clear that the Dusky competency determination is separate and distinct from the Edwards competency determination, both involve a fact-sensitive evaluation of the defendant's capabilities that the trial court is best-situated to make. Indeed, the Supreme Court noted in Edwards that "the trial judge, particularly one such as the trial judge in this case, who presided over one of Edwards' competency hearings and his two trials, will often prove best able to make more fine-tuned mental capacity decisions, tailored to the individualized circumstances of a particular defendant." 128 S.Ct. at 2387. We conclude that the trial court's determination of competence to act pro se is best reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard.

I. The Sixth Amendment Claim

We understand Edwards to announce the following rule of law: a trial court may deny a defendant's request to act pro se when the defendant is mentally competent to stand trial but suffers from severe mental illness to the point where he is not competent to conduct trial proceedings by himself. In this case, Edwards was found mentally competent to stand trial, but the trial court denied his request to proceed pro se. The questions we face on remand, therefore, are whether the trial court found that Edwards suffered from a severe mental illness such that he was not competent to conduct trial proceedings on his own, and, if so, whether the record supports this finding.

Mental competency determinations—at least where competency to be tried is at issue—are ordinarily made following evidentiary hearings conducted by the trial court. In Indiana this procedure is mandated by statute. See Ind.Code § 35-36-3-1 (2004). If the trial court has reason to believe that the defendant is not competent to stand trial, the court must appoint two or three disinterested mental health physicians to examine the defendant and testify at a hearing to the defendant's ability to understand the proceedings and assist in the preparation of a defense. Id. § 35-36-3-1(a). Edwards had three such

902 N.E.2d 825

hearings in August 2000, March 2002, and April 2003. The second of these was conducted by the judge who would preside over his two trials.

Edwards first moved for leave to represent himself on the first day of the first trial in June 2005. This motion was denied because Edwards was not prepared to proceed and a continuance would have been required. Edwards renewed his request the week before the scheduled start of his retrial in December 2005. The trial court did not hold an evidentiary hearing specifically addressing Edwards's competence to represent himself as an issue distinct from competency to stand trial. The court entertained brief arguments on the first day of Edwards's retrial, and denied Edwards's request after reviewing the existing psychiatric evaluations and the court's own conclusions from prior hearings, and also Edwards's correspondence with the court.

Our alternatives are only two: either resolve the issue on the record before us or remand for a hearing in which the issue is Edwards's mental illness as of December 2005 when his second trial was held. In the first place, an evaluation of Edwards's mental illness over three years ago is inherently problematic. For this reason, retrospective competency hearings are generally disfavored.3 A nunc pro tunc competency determination is nevertheless permissible "whenever a court can conduct a meaningful hearing to evaluate retrospectively the competency of the defendant." Maynard v. Boone, 468 F.3d

902 N.E.2d 826

665, 674-75 (10th Cir.2006). Courts typically consider the following factors in determining the feasibility of retrospective competency hearings:

(1) [T]he passage of time, (2) the availability of contemporaneous medical evidence, including medical records and prior competency determinations, (3) any statements by the defendant in the trial record, and (4) the availability of individuals and trial witnesses, both experts and non-experts, who were in a position to interact with defendant before and during trial, including the trial judge, counsel for both the government and defendant, and jail officials.

Id. at 675. In the instant case three years have passed and evaluations demonstrate that Edwards's condition has fluctuated over even short periods. There is no psychological evidence as of 2005, and the earlier evidence was considered by the trial court in its 2005 ruling denying Edwards's request to proceed pro se. Statements by Edwards were also considered in detail by the trial court at that time, and the trial court had its own observations from the prior trial. Under these circumstances we believe that the trial court's findings as to Edwards's competency to act pro se, as well as the substantial body of evidence that was available for the trial court's consideration, obviate any need for a retrospective competency hearing.

The issues are whether the trial court found that Edwards was mentally ill to the point that he was not competent to conduct trial proceedings, and if so, whether the record supports this finding. The trial court did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court's analysis in Edwards. We therefore have no specific findings formulated in the language of Edwards. We nevertheless conclude that this record is sufficient to affirm the judgment of the trial court, including its conclusion that Edwards was not able to represent himself. Specifically, the trial court found Edwards competent to stand trial but not competent to defend himself. The court addressed Edwards's request for self-representation following pretrial argument and explained as follows:

I spent some time going over Doctor Richard Sena's report of July 27, 2004; Doctor Sena's report of May 28, 2004; Doctor Dwight Schuster's report of December 31st, 2002; Doctor Philip Coons's report of November 26th, 2002; Doctor Ned Masbaum's report of October 3, 2001; and Doctor Steven Berger's report of February 27, 2001; and finally Doctor Lance E. Trexler's report of February 23, 2000.... Each and every report where a...

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27 practice notes
  • State v. Connor, AC 34970
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 16, 2014
    ...(2d Cir. 2010) (noting disfavor of nunc pro tunc determination in context of competency for self-representation); Edwards v. State, 902 N.E.2d 821, 825 (Ind. 2009) (same); State v. Klessig, 211 Wis. 2d 194, 213, 222, 564 N.W.2d 716 (1997) (same). Indeed, such disfavor is not rooted in the n......
  • Wright v. State, Supreme Court Case No. 20S-LW-260
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • May 4, 2021
    ...nor amounted to an "unlimited right" for a pro se defendant "to conduct all trial proceedings on his own." Edwards v. State , 902 N.E.2d 821, 828, 829 (Ind. 2009).7 Perhaps as a result of this increasing complexity, the state's liberal bar admission standards eventually fell into disfavor. ......
  • State v. Connor, No. 34970.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 16, 2014
    ...171–72 (2d Cir.2010) (noting disfavor of nunc pro tunc determination in context of competency for self-representation); Edwards v. State, 902 N.E.2d 821, 825 (Ind.2009) (same); State v. Klessig, 211 Wis.2d 194, 213, 222, 564 N.W.2d 716 (1997) (same). Indeed, such disfavor is not rooted in t......
  • Jewell v. State, No. 32A04-1003-CR-187.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 7, 2011
    ...to be heard by himself and counsel[.]" Section 13 in some cases affords broader protections than the Sixth Amendment, Edwards v. State, 902 N.E.2d 821, 828 (Ind.2009), and the Section 13 right to counsel has been held available, depending on the circumstances, prior to the filing of938 N.E.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • State v. Connor, AC 34970
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 16, 2014
    ...(2d Cir. 2010) (noting disfavor of nunc pro tunc determination in context of competency for self-representation); Edwards v. State, 902 N.E.2d 821, 825 (Ind. 2009) (same); State v. Klessig, 211 Wis. 2d 194, 213, 222, 564 N.W.2d 716 (1997) (same). Indeed, such disfavor is not rooted in the n......
  • Wright v. State, Supreme Court Case No. 20S-LW-260
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • May 4, 2021
    ...nor amounted to an "unlimited right" for a pro se defendant "to conduct all trial proceedings on his own." Edwards v. State , 902 N.E.2d 821, 828, 829 (Ind. 2009).7 Perhaps as a result of this increasing complexity, the state's liberal bar admission standards eventually fell into disfavor. ......
  • State v. Connor, No. 34970.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 16, 2014
    ...171–72 (2d Cir.2010) (noting disfavor of nunc pro tunc determination in context of competency for self-representation); Edwards v. State, 902 N.E.2d 821, 825 (Ind.2009) (same); State v. Klessig, 211 Wis.2d 194, 213, 222, 564 N.W.2d 716 (1997) (same). Indeed, such disfavor is not rooted in t......
  • Jewell v. State, No. 32A04-1003-CR-187.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 7, 2011
    ...to be heard by himself and counsel[.]" Section 13 in some cases affords broader protections than the Sixth Amendment, Edwards v. State, 902 N.E.2d 821, 828 (Ind.2009), and the Section 13 right to counsel has been held available, depending on the circumstances, prior to the filing of938 N.E.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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