Grattan v. Com., Record No. 082547.

Docket NºRecord No. 082547.
Citation685 S.E.2d 634, 278 Va. 602
Case DateNovember 05, 2009
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia
685 S.E.2d 634
278 Va. 602
Jonathan P. GRATTAN, II
Record No. 082547.
Supreme Court of Virginia.
November 5, 2009.

[685 S.E.2d 636]

Jonathan Shapiro (Peter Greenspun; Greenspun, Shapiro, Davis & Leary, on briefs), Alexandria, for appellant.

Jennifer C. Williamson, Assistant Attorney General (William C. Mims, Attorney General, on briefs), for appellee.



This appeal involves two questions: whether the trial court's finding that the defendant was competent to stand trial was plainly wrong or without evidence to support it and whether its decision barring the defendant's introduction of expert testimony on the issue of his sanity at the time of the offenses was an abuse of discretion. We answer both questions in the negative and will therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Virginia upholding the defendant's convictions.

685 S.E.2d 637

On the morning of April 30, 2006, Jonathan P. Grattan, II, using an AK-47-style, semi-automatic rifle loaded with steel core ammunition, fired approximately forty rounds into a vehicle occupied by his neighbors, Dr. William Gardner and his wife, Carol Gardner, as the vehicle passed by his house. Carol Gardner died at the scene from her wounds. Dr. Gardner suffered life-threatening injuries but survived the attack.

When the police arrived at Grattan's residence, he refused to come out of the house and engaged in a 20-hour standoff with the police, repeatedly exchanging gunfire. He ultimately surrendered when the police deployed an armed robot into the house. During part of the standoff, Grattan's grandmother was in the residence, and the police repeatedly fired canisters of tear gas into the house in an attempt to get Grattan and his grandmother to come outside. When the police were finally able to enter the house and remove Grattan's grandmother, she told them of her suspicion that Grattan had been using illegal drugs.

Several times during the standoff, Grattan spoke on a telephone with a police negotiator. In those conversations, Grattan accused the Gardners of taking "gamma pictures" of him and trying to murder him. He told the police negotiator that the situation could be resolved by "blow[ing] up" the Gardners' home and "tak[ing] the ... refrigerator out of the ground." After his surrender and arrest, Grattan stated that he attacked the Gardners "for justice" because they harassed him and shot him with "gamma rays." He also admitted the Gardners were unarmed when he shot them and there had been no confrontation with them that morning before he started shooting into their vehicle.

Approximately five months prior to the shooting, Grattan called "911," stating that he had been shot "500 times with [a] f____ing gamma" and that "they" had a microwave pointed at him. Grattan told the 911 operator that his neighbors had been firing at him for four days and that he was dying from radiation poisoning. As a result of that incident, Grattan was hospitalized for mental health treatment with a diagnosis of "[a]cute paranoid psychosis probably secondary to methamphetamine abuse rule out underlying psychosis" as well as methamphetamine abuse. After four days of treatment, Grattan was discharged and referred to further psychiatric treatment as an outpatient.

Due to the attack on the Gardners, a grand jury returned 16 indictments against Grattan, charging him with the first degree murder of Carol Gardner, in violation of Code § 18.2-32; aggravated malicious wounding of Dr. Gardner, in violation of Code § 18.2-51.2; six counts of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, in violation of Code §§ 18.2-25 and -31(6); and eight counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, in violation of Code § 18.2-53.1. Prior to his trial, Grattan filed a notice pursuant to Code § 19.2-168, stating his intention to put in issue his sanity at the time of the charged offenses and to present expert testimony in support of that defense. At a hearing on January 18, 2007, Grattan's counsel also expressed concern about Grattan's competency to stand trial. At the request of the Commonwealth and in accordance with Code §§ 19.2-168.1(A) and -169.1(A), the circuit court appointed two mental health experts to evaluate both Grattan's sanity at the time of the offenses and his competency to stand trial. At the same hearing, the court advised Grattan to cooperate with the Commonwealth's mental health experts and that under Code § 19.2-168.1(B), his failure to do so could lead to the exclusion of his own expert evidence supporting his claim of insanity. When asked by the court, Grattan indicated that he understood the court's instructions.

At a hearing on January 30, the Commonwealth asked the circuit court to instruct Grattan once more that he must cooperate with the Commonwealth's mental health expert who was appointed to evaluate Grattan's competency to stand trial. The Commonwealth stated that Grattan had twice refused to meet with its expert, Dr. Leigh D. Hagan. Consequently, the court admonished Grattan:

I will caution you again that you are required by law to cooperate with the mental health evaluator appointed by the [c]ourt to evaluate your competency to stand trial....

685 S.E.2d 638
I]f the [c]ourt believes as it now stands that you are malingering and putting on a charade ... the [c]ourt on the evidence now before it would be strongly inclined to find you competent to stand trial. You give every appearance of being competent. You have appeared competent on all your prior appearances here. And therefore this could have dire and severe consequences because when we commence the trial the [c]ourt will preclude any mental health expert opinion on your sanity at the time of the offense.

At a subsequent hearing to determine Grattan's competency to stand trial, Grattan introduced testimony and a written report from Dr. Thomas V. Ryan, a licensed clinical psychologist, and a written competency evaluation by Dr. Bruce J. Cohen, a psychiatrist.1 Although Dr. Ryan met with Grattan once for five hours, Grattan refused to see him on three other occasions. Dr. Cohen interviewed Grattan three times and reviewed, among other information, Dr. Ryan's psychological assessment.

Dr. Ryan, after being qualified as an expert in neuropsychology, opined that Grattan was "clearly not competent" to stand trial. Dr. Ryan tested Grattan's competency in three categories: understanding of the legal system, reasoning and the ability to assist counsel, and appreciation of the specific legal situation and circumstances at hand. According to Dr. Ryan, Grattan scored "within the clinically significant impairment range" in all three categories.

Dr. Ryan also opined that Grattan suffered from schizophrenia but acknowledged that a mentally ill individual can nevertheless be competent to stand trial. He further testified that just because an individual can function in a structured environment such as a prison does not mean the person is not psychotic or mentally ill. In his written report, Dr. Ryan stated that Grattan was likely "responding to internal stimulation and psychotic thought processes as evidenced by his inappropriate laughter, rapid changes in his demeanor, very poor eye contact, and severe restlessness." He also reported that Grattan "demonstrated throughout [the] entire assessment tangential thinking and delusional ideation regarding the criminal offense." Finally, Dr. Ryan opined that Grattan was not malingering, or attempting to exaggerate or fabricate his psychotic symptoms.

Dr. Cohen reported, among other things, that Grattan was not able to engage in any meaningful discussion about the offenses or his case, did not understand the reason for his trial, had continued delusional beliefs about the victims shooting rays into his house, provided inconsistent and often delusional recollections about the offenses, did not understand the concept of plea bargains, and did not comprehend the advantages and disadvantages of pleading insanity. He concluded that Grattan suffered from schizophrenia and had "significant deficits ... that specifically appeared to impair his ability to understand the proceedings against him, to appreciate his current life situation and to make decisions that would assist his attorneys in adequately defending him." Based on Grattan's knowledge of his case and the offenses, Dr. Cohen stated that it was "highly unlikely that [Grattan] would be able to adequately assist his attorneys or participate in his defense."2

Dr. Lou Gene Bartram, who qualified as an expert in psychiatry, testified on behalf of the Commonwealth. Dr. Bartram examined Grattan in the local jail eleven days after his arrest. Grattan told Dr. Bartram that he did not need a psychiatrist and that "it was either him or them and he was not sorry that he had killed them." Dr. Bartram stated that she saw no psychotic symptoms nor any methamphetamine induced psychosis or schizophrenia, but that post acute withdrawal was consistent with her observations of Grattan. Dr. Bartram diagnosed Grattan as having a personality disorder with narcissistic

[685 S.E.2d 639

traits, and methamphetamine and cannabis dependence.

After being qualified as an expert in forensic and clinical psychology, Dr. Hagan testified on behalf of the Commonwealth about the court-ordered competency evaluation of Grattan he conducted on January 30 after the circuit court ordered Grattan to meet with him. Dr. Hagan conducted his evaluation in the courtroom because, in part,

it would be far more illuminating to the issue of competence to know how [Grattan] would respond in this particular setting where a trial would take place.... [Y]ou're much more likely to get true accurate data if you assess that person under the conditions that they are supposed to...

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