Gregori v. United States, 16218.

Decision Date05 April 1957
Docket NumberNo. 16218.,16218.
Citation243 F.2d 48
PartiesJonathan GREGORI, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Jonathan Gregori, Springfield, Mo., in pro. per.

E. Coleman Madsen, Asst. U. S. Atty., Jacksonville, Fla., for appellee.

Before TUTTLE, JONES and BROWN, Circuit Judges.

TUTTLE, Circuit Judge.

In May 1955 the appellant was convicted after a jury trial of several days duration, in which he was represented by counsel, of violating the White Slavery Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 24211; a motion for a new trial was filed. On June 17, 1955, appellant was sentenced to four years imprisonment. A notice of appeal was filed on June 27th but apparently the appeal was not prosecuted. Neither the motion for a new trial, based on six asserted grounds, nor the notice of appeal, both of which were prepared by appellant's counsel, raised the issue of insanity at the time of trial as a bar to the proceeding, nor does it appear from the record before us that this question was brought to the attention of, or considered by the trial court in any other manner.

On December 19, 1955, appellant, proceeding in forma pauperis and without counsel, filed a "Motion to Vacate Sentence on Newly Discovered Evidence," in which he alleged in substance the following facts: Appellant had been honorably discharged from the United States Navy in November 1947 for "psychotic reasons" — because he had a "state of paranoia chronic condition, with suicidal tendencies." Subsequently appellant was treated by several doctors for mental ailments and in 1950 he was "again" committed for attempted suicide. Complete amnesia is claimed beginning in the year 1952 and continuing until December 1955, thus including both the date of the alleged crime (December 1954) and the entire period of the consequent judicial proceedings; in particular he alleges that:

"(D) Petitioner appeared in court on approximate date of May 1955. He was mentally ill, incompatent, under complete amnesia and therefore did not realize what was going on and the seriousness and graveness of the crime of which he was involved."

Immediately after his sentence appellant was sent to the Atlanta Penitentiary and was there immediately medically examined and placed into a ward for psychotic patients. A consulting psychiatrist was called, who, with two doctors of the prison staff, diagnosed, only two months after the sentence, that appellant was suffering from: "Paranoia chronic with shizophrenic intonations as evidenced by delusions and hallucinations and active ideas of persecution with suicidal tendencies." Thereupon appellant was transferred to the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Springfield, Missouri, and placed into a ward for "certified psychotic insane patients under acute state of insanity and needing psychiatric care and treatment." (Spelling as in motion.)

The district judge, who had also presided at the trial, concluded that this motion should be treated as brought under 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 4241, 4245,2 and directed that the motion be served upon the Attorney General and that he be directed to file with the court either the certificate of probable cause by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons contemplated by § 4245, together with the report of the Board of Examiners prepared pursuant to § 4241 that was apparently referred to in the motion, or to answer appellant's motion. The court denied, as unnecessary for the time being, appellant's request for the production of a transcript of the trial proceedings.

In accordance with this order the United States filed an answer in which it was asserted that appellant's Navy discharge was for "constitutional psychopathic inferiority" rather than for any psychosis or psychoneurosis; it was also asserted that the hospitalization in Atlanta occurred not immediately but only after two months. In addition there was filed the report of the Board of Examiners convened in accordance with the order of the court, in which appellant's medical history in the prison hospitals was recited, showing that he had first been placed into a mental ward after a two months' stay in Atlanta because when he was temporarily lodged in the surgical ward of the prison hospital for a minor operation he expressed fears that he would be murdered; he was then diagnosed by the consulting neuropsychiatrist as suffering from "schizophrenia, paranoid type" and was certified by the Board of Examiners at Atlanta as being of unsound mind and recommended for transfer to the Missouri institution. Upon arrival there his diagnosis was "schizophrenic reaction, chronic, undifferentiated type." The Board then gave an account of his appearance before them in which the appellant's behavior was hardly such as to inspire confidence in his ability to comprehend clearly a legal proceeding — though he had earlier initiated this one. The Board concluded that though appellant was then suffering from a major mental disorder there was no "conclusive evidence" that subject had been insane at the time of his trial.3 No certificate of probable cause by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons had been prepared.

The district court thereupon determined that on the basis of the above report, and on the record as a whole, appellant was not entitled to relief either under the provisions of 18 U.S.C.A. § 4245 or 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255.4

The principal burden of appellant's brief here is that since the Board found and the experts agree that the chronic mental condition from which he is suffering is one that takes many years to develop, a finding of mental disease some four months after the trial almost conclusively proves mental incapacity at the earlier date. Appellant also complains, apparently with some justice, of undue delay in this proceeding.5

The Government relies on two decisions of the Tenth Circuit, Hallowell v. Hunter, 186 F.2d 873, and especially on Hahn v. United States, 178 F.2d 11, for the proposition that 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255 proceedings may not be used to mount a collateral attack on a conviction based on insanity at the time of trial. United States v. Fooks, D.C.D.C., 132 F.Supp. 533, is cited for the holding that in a § 4245 proceeding appellant has "the severe burden" of proving that he was insane at the time of trial.

We agree with the district court that an action such as this should most appropriately be brought under the provisions of 18 U.S.C.A. § 4245. However, in the present instance this section is clearly not applicable for the certificate of probable cause, which is therein made a prerequisite for action by the trial court, was not forthcoming, either spontaneously as contemplated by the statute or even after the district court had requested that such a certificate be issued if appropriate. Though § 4245 refers to § 4244 for the details of the type of hearing to be afforded the accused, the wording of § 4245 and the principle of expressio unius seems to exclude the possibility that proceedings under that section can also be initiated by either the court or the accused, or upon a finding of merely "reasonable cause" as provided in § 4244, even though this leaves an apparent imbalance in the statutory provisions for determining insanity at the time of trial, depending on whether the point is raised before or after imposition of sentence. If § 4245 were indeed the only method for testing a claim of insanity at the time of trial this interpretation might raise some serious questions about either the constitutionality of the statute or about that construction in view of the presumed congressional intent, but in light of our determination below that relief under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255 may also be available these questions may here be avoided. Equally it is unnecessary to determine whether or not the Director of the Bureau of Prisons was correct in withholding a certificate of "probable cause" merely because the Board of Examiners had found "no conclusive proof" of insanity at the time of trial, and whether or not the issuance of such a certificate rests at the Director's unreviewable discretion.

The district court also treated the motion as one brought under 28 U.S. C.A. § 2255,6 but, as indicated above, found that appellant is not entitled to relief under its provisions either. With this determination we are, however, unable to agree, whether it be based on the legal contention urged by the Government that § 2255 is unavailable to attack a sentence collaterally for insanity at the time of trial, or is treated as a factual determination by the district court that "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show" that appellant was not insane at the time of trial, or even if considered as a "finding" by the trial court, on the basis of a "hearing" (at which the accused need of course not be present) that the appellant is entitled to no § 2255 relief.

Though it has often been said, as the Government now asserts, that § 2255 is entirely unavailable as a vehicle for collaterally attacking a sentence on the basis of insanity at the time of trial, from a close examination of the many cases in which this proposition has been stated it appears that in spite of the broad statements of the inapplicability of § 2255 or of the writs of coram nobis which it succeeded or of habeas corpus which it supplements, most of the cases hold merely that where a claim of insanity at the time of trial had actually been raised at the trial, formally or informally, and determined adversely to the accused, the only review of this determination is by direct appeal from the judgment of the trial court7; other statements on this point are in the nature of dicta,8 while a few cases that cannot thus be distinguished rely on the broad statement of the "rule" as stated in cases in the former categories.9 It might also be noted that in most instances in which an appellate court affirmed a denial of collateral review on this ground it also...

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