Lyles v. United States, 13467.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Citation103 US App. DC 22,254 F.2d 725
Docket NumberNo. 13467.,13467.
PartiesArchibald LYLES, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Decision Date25 October 1957

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Mr. Robert T. S. Colby, Washington, D. C. (appointed by this Court), for appellant.

Mr. Donald E. Bilger, Asst. U. S. Atty., with whom Messrs. Oliver Gasch, U. S. Atty., Lewis Carroll and Thomas A. Flannery, Asst. U. S. Attys., were on the brief, for appellee. Mr. Harold H. Greene, Asst. U. S. Atty., also entered an appearance for appellee.

Before EDGERTON, Chief Judge, and PRETTYMAN, WILBUR K. MILLER, BAZELON, FAHY, WASHINGTON, DANAHER, BASTIAN and BURGER, Circuit Judges, sitting in banc.

Writ of Certiorari Denied May 19, 1958. See 78 S.Ct. 997.

PER CURIAM.

The judgment of the District Court is affirmed. Chief Judge Edgerton and Judges Bazelon, Fahy and Washington dissent.

Judges Prettyman and Burger file an opinion, prepared by them jointly. Four points are discussed, under separate headings I to IV. Chief Judge Edgerton and Judges Bazelon, Fahy and Washington agree with Point I of that opinion. They also agree with Point II, except that they are of the view the error of the District Court was reversible error. Judges Wilbur K. Miller, Danaher and Bastian concur on Points III and IV.

Judge Bastian files a separate opinion, in which Judge Wilbur K. Miller and Judge Danaher concur. Judge Bazelon, on behalf of himself, Chief Judge Edgerton and Judge Washington, files a dissenting opinion. Judge Fahy files a separate dissenting opinion.

PRETTYMAN and BURGER, Circuit Judges.

Appellant was indicted in December 1954 for robbery, grand larceny and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. In a hearing conducted in February 1955 pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4244 (1952) it was determined that he was not mentally competent to stand trial; accordingly he was committed to an institution to remain in custody until he was competent to be tried.

Another hearing as to his competency was held in November 1955 and he was then judicially declared competent to be tried and was ordered to trial. On trial he pleaded not guilty and relied on a defense of insanity. The grand larceny charge was dismissed by the prosecution. The jury returned a verdict of guilty as to robbery and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He was duly sentenced and this appeal followed.

While the case was under consideration by a division of this court the full court voted for a re-hearing in banc.

Our present consideration is addressed to several issues which can be stated as follows:

1. In cases where the defense of insanity is asserted what, if anything, should the court instruct the jury about the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, pursuant to D.C.Code § 24-301?

2. Is a trial judge prohibited in all cases from referring, either in the course of summarizing the evidence or in exercise of his power to comment on the evidence, to testimony that the accused is not presently suffering from a mental disorder?

3. May the trial judge admit in evidence on the issue of insanity under the Federal Shop Book Act a record of a psychiatric opinion that the accused was suffering from a mental disease or defect at a date prior to commission of the act?

4. When not objected to on trial or raised on appeal, is it reversible error under 18 U.S.C. § 4244 for the trial judge to permit the judicial finding of competency to stand trial to be read into the record as a counterbalance to defense counsel's introduction of an earlier finding that the accused was not competent to stand trial?

I

The judge told the jury:

"If a defendant is found not guilty on the ground of insanity, it then becomes the duty of the Court to commit him to St. Elizabeths Hospital, and this the Court would do. The defendant then would remain at St. Elizabeths Hospital until he is cured and it is deemed safe to release him; and when that time arrives he will be released and will suffer no further consequences from this offense."

This point arises under the doctrine, well established and sound, that the jury has no concern with the consequences of a verdict, either in the sentence, if any, or the nature or extent of it, or in probation. But we think that doctrine does not apply in the problem before us. The issue of insanity having been fairly raised, the jury may return one of three verdicts, guilty, not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity. Jurors, in common with people in general, are aware of the meanings of verdicts of guilty and not guilty. It is common knowledge that a verdict of not guilty means that the prisoner goes free and that a verdict of guilty means that he is subject to such punishment as the court may impose. But a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity has no such commonly understood meaning. As a matter of fact its meaning was not made clear in this jurisdiction until Congress enacted the statute of August 9, 1955.1 It means neither freedom nor punishment. It means the accused will be confined in a hospital for the mentally ill until the superintendent of such hospital certifies, and the court is satisfied, that such person has recovered his sanity and will not in the reasonable future be dangerous to himself or others. We think the jury has a right to know the meaning of this possible verdict as accurately as it knows by common knowledge the meaning of the other two possible verdicts.

We do not prescribe a form of instruction. We think a recitation of the statutory procedure in great detail, such as reading the entire section of the statute, would tend to increase confusion. We think that when the instruction is given the jury should simply be informed that a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity means that the accused will be confined in a hospital for the mentally ill until the superintendent has certified, and the court is satisfied, that such person has recovered his sanity and will not in the reasonable future be dangerous to himself or to others, in which event and at which time the court shall order his release either unconditionally or under such conditions as the court may see fit. We discussed this matter in Taylor v. United States, which was decided2 prior to the enactment of the present statute. Elaboration here is unnecessary.

Sometimes a defendant may not want such an instruction given. If that appears affirmatively on the record we would not regard failure to give it as grounds for reversal. Otherwise, whenever hereafter the defense of insanity is fairly raised, the trial judge shall instruct the jury as to the legal meaning of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity in accordance with the view expressed in this opinion.3

The language used by the trial court in the present case is not as precise as it might have been in stating the content of the statute. But we think this failure is not error sufficient to require or justify reversal.

II

Having made to the jury the statement above quoted and discussed, the trial judge immediately said:

"I think I should add that Dr. Cushard of St. Elizabeths Hospital testified, as you will recall, that on a prior occasion he found no mental disorder whatever in the defendant, and that the defendant was a man of average intelligence."

Dr. Cushard had so testified.4 The question is whether the trial judge erred in making the quoted remark at the time and in the context in which he made it. Clearly the trial judge could summarize and comment upon this part of the evidence, as he could upon all or any of the evidence, when he was summarizing the evidence in the case. Error is urged because he called attention to this evidence not in the course of his summation of evidence but in immediate connection with his statement to the jury that if acquitted by reason of insanity Lyles would be committed to a mental institution. The quoted remark is said to convey an emphatic inference that if so committed Lyles would shortly be released.

In a criminal case claims of insanity are possibly pertinent at three points of time, (1) the time of the offense, (2) the time of the trial, and (3) the time of possible release after acquittal by reason of insanity. These points of time may be widely separated. Three different questions are pertinent upon these three occasions. (1) As of the time of the offense the question is whether the accused had a mental disease or defect and whether his alleged criminal act was the product of such disease or defect. The basic concern of the law at that point is whether the accused was in such mental condition that he should be held responsible for his crime. This is a matter of evidence and a question to be decided by a jury, unless there is no real conflict in the evidence.5 It is part of the trial for the offense. The inquiry, and the decision, must be as of the time of the offense. Evidence as to the accused's mental condition either before or after the offense may be admissible, but it is admissible only in so far as it is relevant to his condition as of the time of the offense.

(2) As of the time of the trial the question, as prescribed by statute, is whether the accused is mentally competent to understand the nature of the charges against him and to assist in his defense. He may have a mental disease, and the mental disease may have been the cause of his criminal act, and he may be suffering from the same disease at the time of his trial; but it is a scientific fact that he nevertheless may be competent to stand trial under this definition of competency. A paranoiac or a pyromaniac may well understand the charges against him and be able to assist in his defense. "To assist in his defense" of course does not refer to legal questions involved but to such phases of a defense as a defendant usually assists in, such as accounts of the facts, names of...

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