Hinnant, In re

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation678 N.E.2d 1314,424 Mass. 900
PartiesIn re Arthur Lee HINNANT, Petitioner.
Decision Date13 May 1997

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678 N.E.2d 1314
424 Mass. 900
In re Arthur Lee HINNANT, Petitioner.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.
Argued Feb. 6, 1997.
Decided May 13, 1997.

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Lawrence P. Murray, Boston (Henry F. Owens, III, with him), for petitioner.

Ellyn Lazar, Assistant Attorney General, for the Commonwealth.


MARSHALL, Justice.

The State of North Carolina seeks rendition of the petitioner, Arthur Lee Hinnant. As a result of a severe closed head injury with coma, Hinnant suffers from residual brain damage; a medical examiner has concluded that he is functionally incompetent. We are asked to decide whether his present incompetency requires a stay of the rendition proceedings until his competency is restored.

[424 Mass. 901] I

In April, 1994, Hinnant was involved in an automobile collision in Johnston County, North Carolina, in which three women were killed. As a consequence of the collision Hinnant was charged with felony manslaughter. On October 27, 1994, the North Carolina District Court for Johnston County dismissed the counts "with leave," having found that as a result of his closed head injury Hinnant lacked the mental capacity to proceed to trial. 1 Hinnant was released on personal bond to the care and custody of family members. With the knowledge of the North Carolina prosecutor, 2 immediately after his release Hinnant left North Carolina to reside in Massachusetts with his sister, Marie McCray.

On November 23, 1994, North Carolina reinstated charges against Hinnant. 3 On December 5, 1994, indictments were issued charging Hinnant with three counts of murder in the second degree. On January 11, 1995, the North Carolina Superior Court issued

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a warrant for his arrest, and on January 23, 1995, Hinnant was arrested in Massachusetts by Boston police as a fugitive from justice. 4

On February 3, 1995, Hinnant appeared in the Roxbury [424 Mass. 902] Division of the District Court Department to address the outstanding warrant. Hinnant was represented by counsel at that hearing. 5 A District Court judge released Hinnant on bail and ordered that he be evaluated. See G.L. c. 276, § 20D. In April, 1995, a doctor at Veterans' Administration Medical Center in Boston concluded that Hinnant was "functionally incompetent" and unable to "comprehend the charges against him" or to "take part in his own defense." 6

On February 15, 1995, the district attorney of Johnston County, North Carolina, filed an application for requisition of Hinnant to Johnson County for trial. 7 On March 1, 1995, the Governor of North Carolina forwarded the application to the Governor of Massachusetts, accompanied by a demand that Hinnant be delivered to the sheriff of Johnston County, pursuant to the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act. 8 Thereafter, on March 8, 1995, the Governor of Massachusetts issued a warrant for the arrest and return of Hinnant to North Carolina.

On May 10, 1995, Hinnant surrendered on the Governor's warrant, and appeared before a judge of the Superior Court [424 Mass. 903] for advisement of his rights under G.L. c. 276, § 19. 9 Hinnant's counsel 10 informed the judge that he was unable to communicate with Hinnant, and explained that Hinnant had been found to be incompetent by a physician at the Veterans' Administration Medical Center. Counsel objected to the proceeding taking place on the ground that Hinnant could not understand the nature of the proceedings against him. The judge overruled counsel's objection and signed the warrant for the arrest of Hinnant.

On the same day, Hinnant's counsel filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court. He sought a stay of any

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rendition proceeding until such time as Hinnant was deemed "competent to be able to aid counsel and comprehend the nature of the habeas corpus-extradition proceedings." 11 After a hearing, a different judge of the Superior Court denied the petition but stayed Hinnant's rendition to North Carolina pending the outcome of this appeal. Hinnant was released on bail to the custody of his sister. See G.L. c. 276, § 20D; Upton, petitioner, 387 Mass. 359, 370, 439 N.E.2d 1216 (1982). Hinnant appealed. We transferred the appeal here on our own motion.

The authority for interstate extradition is found in art. IV [424 Mass. 904] of the United States Constitution: "A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime." U.S. Const. art. IV, § 2, cl. 2. The extradition clause "was intended to enable each state to bring offenders to trial as swiftly as possible in the state where the alleged offense was committed." Michigan v. Doran, 439 U.S. 282, 287, 99 S.Ct. 530, 534, 58 L.Ed.2d 521 (1978), citing Biddinger v. Commissioner of Police, 245 U.S. 128, 38 S.Ct. 41, 62 L.Ed. 193 (1917), and Appleyard v. Massachusetts, 203 U.S. 222, 27 S.Ct. 122, 51 L.Ed. 161 (1906).

To provide for a uniform and effective procedure for States to request and perform the interstate rendition of parties charged with crimes, in 1936 the Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws approved the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA). UCEA has been adopted by forty-eight States, including Massachusetts and North Carolina. See note 8, supra. In general, as adopted in Massachusetts, the statute provides that, when an individual leaves the State in which a criminal incident has occurred, and the appropriate authorities of that State (demanding State) institute criminal charges against him, 12 the demanding State may issue a demand for his rendition. G.L. c. 276, § 14. When the individual is located in another State (asylum State), a magistrate in the asylum State issues a fugitive warrant, and the individual is then arrested on that warrant. G.L. c. 276, § 20A. He may waive rendition or challenge it; either way, the demanding State must be notified of the individual's choice. G.L. c. 276, § 20J. If the individual challenges rendition, the asylum State may hold a hearing to determine whether the individual is indeed the person sought, and then either commit the individual to jail or release him on bail. G.L. c. 276, § 20D.

The agency seeking rendition in the demanding State is then required to prepare an application for the requisition for the return of the individual. G.L. c. 276, § 20L. If the Governor of the demanding State approves the application, a warrant demanding the return of the individual is issued. The warrant is sent to the Governor of the asylum State. G.L. c. [424 Mass. 905] 276, § 20K. If the Governor of the asylum State honors this demand, a Governor's rendition warrant under which an arrest may be made is issued. G.L. c. 276, § 16.

Before the individual is transported to the demanding State to face criminal charges, the statute requires that he be brought before a judge in the asylum State where he must be informed of the demand made for his surrender, the underlying charge, his right to counsel, and his right to test the legality of his arrest in a habeas corpus proceeding. G.L. c. 276, § 19. It is this stage of Hinnant's rendition proceeding that is at issue in this appeal.

There are clear limits on the scope of judicial review that may occur at this stage:

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"Once the governor has granted extradition, a court considering release on habeas corpus can do no more than decide (a) whether the extradition documents on their face are in order; (b) whether the petitioner has been charged with a crime in the demanding state; (c) whether the petitioner is the person named in the request for extradition; and (d) whether the petitioner is a fugitive." Doran, supra at 289, 99 S.Ct. at 535. In an earlier opinion we described the same issues as the relevant ones, Maldonado, petitioner, 364 Mass. 359, 362, 304 N.E.2d 419 (1973), and we have enforced these same limitations since Doran. See Commonwealth v. Beauchamp, 413 Mass. 60, 63, 595 N.E.2d 307 (1992); Upton, petitioner, 387 Mass. 359, 361, 439 N.E.2d 1216 (1982).

As regulated by UCEA in harmony with the Federal Constitution (art. IV, § 2, cl.2) and its executing Federal statute (18 U.S.C. § 3182 [1970] ), extradition is a "summary procedure" and the courts of asylum States "may do no more" than ascertain whether the four issues open for consideration as described in Doran have been met. California v. Superior Court, 482 U.S. 400, 407-408, 107 S.Ct. 2433, 2438-39, 96 L.Ed.2d 332 (1987). As limited as this scope of review may be, the Legislature has determined that at this stage of rendition, an arrested individual has the right to counsel so that he may participate in, and challenge, the rendition proceedings, albeit on the narrow grounds recognized in Doran, supra. See G.L. c. 276, § 19.

It is Hinnant's position that his claimed inability to comprehend the rendition proceedings and his lack of capacity to assist his counsel in connection with those proceedings implicate both his statutory rights as provided in G.L. c. 276, § 19, and his due process rights protected by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and art. 12 of [424 Mass. 906] the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. A determination of his competency, he says, is necessary to give effect to the procedural safeguards embodied in UCEA and to constitutionally based notions of justice. The Commonwealth argues that Hinnant's claimed incompetence does not bear in any way upon the four limited issues that the court of an asylum State may address in rendition proceedings and is irrelevant. 13

The question is one that we have not considered before, although courts from several other States have addressed this issue squarely. Most have concluded that the competence of a petitioner to...

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  • ABBOTT A v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • September 20, 2010
    ...so that he can decide whether to waive rendition or challenge it on the narrow grounds available to him.” Hinnant, petitioner, 424 Mass. 900, 907, 678 N.E.2d 1314 (1997). In contrast, the risk of strategic error is far lower at a bail hearing, where the defendant's interest in obtaining the......
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    ...if the petitioner is so incompetent that he is unable to comprehend what is occurring and to assist counsel." Hinnant, Petitioner, 424 Mass. 900, 906-07, 678 N.E.2d 1314 (1997). Similarly, a New York court stated that the right to counsel would be rendered "a meaningless formality because o......
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