Reese v. Wainwright, No. 78-2345

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BROWN, Chief Judge, CLARK and VANCE; CHARLES CLARK
Citation600 F.2d 1085
Docket NumberNo. 78-2345
Decision Date13 August 1979
PartiesWillie George REESE, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Louie L. WAINWRIGHT, Respondent-Appellee.

Page 1085

600 F.2d 1085
Willie George REESE, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Louie L. WAINWRIGHT, Respondent-Appellee.
No. 78-2345.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
Aug. 13, 1979.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 6, 1979.

Page 1087

Dianne Weaver, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (Court-appointed), Marilyn Pardo Liroff, for petitioner-appellant.

Robert L. Shevin, Atty. Gen., Miami, Fla., James H. Greason, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Legal Affairs, Miami, Fla., for respondent-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before BROWN, Chief Judge, CLARK and VANCE, Circuit Judges.

Page 1088

CHARLES CLARK, Circuit Judge:

The appellant, Willie George Reese, a man plagued for many years with recurring symptoms of serious mental illness, appeals from the dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Reese was convicted in a Florida state court of robbing a finance company, and sentenced to 101 years' imprisonment. His habeas petition challenges the sufficiency of the evidence that he was sane during the commission of the robbery, argues that his procedural due process right to a competency hearing at trial was violated, and alleges that he was actually incompetent during the course of the trial proceedings. We affirm the denial of habeas relief.

I.

Reese was charged with robbery by an information filed on July 1, 1971. Reese underwent examination by two psychiatrists later in July pursuant to the state trial court's order. Both psychiatrists diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic. On August 16, 1971, the state court declared Reese incompetent to stand trial and ordered him committed to South Florida State Hospital. The admission report at the South Florida State Hospital stated that Reese had previously spent 17 months in the State Hospital at Chattahoochee, where he was treated with Thorazine, a drug often used to treat schizophrenia. While at the South Florida Hospital Reese was again treated with Thorazine on gradually decreasing dosage.

In late December of 1971, Reese was diagnosed by a doctor at the State Hospital as an alcoholic paranoid in a state of remission, and it was recommended that he be returned to the court for trial. An evaluation conference was held at the hospital and Reese, though he appeared tense and anxious, was regarded as fit to return to court. In February of 1972, the court ordered Reese readmitted to the hospital to be observed while off medication. Another evaluation conference took place at the hospital in May of 1972, and the doctors there again agreed that Reese was fit for trial. Upon this second release to court, an independent psychiatric examination was ordered. A psychiatrist examined Reese in the county jail on June 21, 1972, and found him competent to stand trial.

A competency hearing was held before the state trial judge on August 28, 1972. Two psychiatrists testified at the hearing and Reese was adjudged competent. Most of the transcript of the competency hearing is irretrievably lost but it appears from the existing portion that some sort of outburst by Reese took place and that Reese's counsel apologized to the judge for his behavior. The record of the August hearing is sufficient to make it clear, however, that the same state judge that had carefully evaluated Reese's competency during the year prior to August of 1972 and had ordered Reese repeatedly examined during that period, adjudged Reese finally competent for trial.

One month after the competency hearing, on September 26, 1972, Reese's trial began. Reese's defense was that he was insane at the time of the crime. With one exception midway through the trial, Reese's defense counsel consistently maintained that Reese was mentally competent to stand trial, and he frequently admonished the jury not to infer Reese's sanity during commission of the crime from his present sanity during trial. During voir dire, Reese's counsel three times emphasized that "Willie Reese, as he sits here today, is sane." In his opening statement Reese's counsel recounted his history of psychiatric problems and concluded that, "Now, finally, you see him competent to stand trial." Again, in his closing argument, defense counsel emphasized that after long treatment Reese's symptoms had abated and he had been determined competent to stand trial, but that the jury should not allow the abatement of Reese's mental illness to color their judgment as to his sanity during the robbery.

The sole exception to this pattern of Reese's defense occurred during the examination of one of three psychiatrists called to testify by the defense. During the examination of Dr. Charles Mutter, who had been

Page 1089

testifying at length as to Reese's past medical history, defense counsel asked the doctor whether he thought Reese was presently competent to stand trial. The prosecution objected on the grounds that Reese's present competency had been determined and was no longer relevant, but the court allowed the witness to answer. Dr. Mutter stated, "I don't know. I haven't examined him today or at the most recent time." Dr. Mutter was then asked whether he could render an opinion as to Reese's present sanity based on Dr. Mutter's examination of Reese on July 19, 1972. The doctor answered, "No way. I don't think anyone can." A conference outside the presence of the jury then took place, and defense counsel stated that in the hallway outside the courtroom before the trial commenced Dr. Mutter opined that Reese was not competent to stand trial. During the entire trial defense counsel made no other effort, either before or after Dr. Mutter testified, to place in issue Reese's present competency.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty. Defense counsel then, for the first time since the August pretrial competency hearing, moved to have Reese examined for competency. The motion was denied and Reese was sentenced to 101 years' imprisonment. Two days later, on September 29, 1972, Reese's counsel filed a motion for a new trial. That motion did not raise the issue of Reese's competency during trial. The motion was denied on October 11, 1972, and Reese filed a notice of appeal on October 16.

During the month of October 1972, Reese was also undergoing prosecution for unrelated criminal charges before the same trial judge who had presided during Reese's robbery trial. As part of that prosecution the trial court ordered a psychiatric examination of Reese on October 3, and Reese underwent examination between October 11 and October 13 by three psychiatrists. The psychiatrists reported to the court that Reese was again experiencing psychiatric disorders, including hallucinations and severe paranoia. One of the examining psychiatrists, Dr. Sanford Jacobson, speculated that Reese might not have been competent during his robbery trial two weeks before, but also noted that the fluctuations in Reese's mental condition made it difficult to determine his condition during any past period.

On October 24, 1972, the state court heard argument on a defense motion to vacate the judgment and sentence on Reese's robbery conviction on the grounds that he was incompetent during the trial. Initially, the court evidenced confusion as to the grounds for the motion, stating that the issue presented had already been decided by the jury. Defense counsel clarified the motion, however, explaining that it did not concern Reese's insanity defense, but rather the non-jury issue of competency for trial. In acknowledging the technical error, the court stated that it now understood the distinction, but that the result was the same since it had already found Reese competent. The court, which had received the October psychiatrists' reports stemming from Reese's second prosecution, refused to hear any testimony by psychiatrists concerning Reese's condition during his robbery trial. Rather, the judge who had himself observed Reese during that trial denied the motion to vacate the conviction and the sentence, because he had ruled before that Reese was competent during his trial. Consistent with the diagnosis of Reese's present state, the court did, however, order that Reese be sent to a state hospital, not to be released to the state penitentiary until the hospital determined that he was fit to begin serving his sentence.

II.

Reese's defense at trial was insanity at the time of the offense. In his habeas petition Reese claims that Florida failed to meet is burden of establishing that he was legally sane during the robbery. The Supreme Court recently modified the standard to be applied in a federal habeas corpus proceeding when a petitioner claims that he was convicted in a state court upon insufficient evidence. In Jackson v. Virginia, --- U.S. ----, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560

Page 1090

(1979), the Court repudiated the "no evidence" rule of Thompson v. Louisville, 362 U.S. 199, 80 S.Ct. 624, 4 L.Ed.2d 654 (1960), in federal habeas corpus cases challenging the sufficiency of the evidence adduced at a state court trial. Under Jackson, the new test which must be applied by a federal judge is "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, Any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." --- U.S. at ----, 99 S.Ct. at 2789 (emphasis in original).

Reese presented the testimony of three psychiatrists in an effort to establish his insanity at the time of the robbery. The first, Dr. Mutter, conceded on questioning that he "could not get any adequate history to make...

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  • Herrera v. Stephens, CIVIL ACTION NO. H-13-2432
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • July 18, 2014
    ...(2) the defendant's bearing and demeanor at the time of trial; and (3) prior medical opinions." Id. (citing Reese v. Wainwright, 600 F.2d 1085, 1091 (5th Cir. 1979)). Herrera offers no medical or psychiatric records, or other evidence, to support his claim of mental incompetence. There is n......
  • Luna v. Davis, CIVIL NO. SA-15-CA-451-XR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • September 24, 2018
    ...is persuasive evidence in and of itself that no violation occurred. Medina v. California, 505 U.S. 437, 450 (1992); Reese v. Wainwright, 600 F.2d 1085, 1092 (5th Cir. 1979). Thus, Petitioner's testimony did not indicate a lack of rationality, understanding, or ability to communicate that sh......
  • Goode v. Wainwright, No. 82-5244
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • May 2, 1983
    ...defendant's competence to stand trial, the defendant has a due process right to a Page 597 hearing on that issue. Reese v. Wainwright, 600 F.2d 1085, 1091 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 983, 100 S.Ct. 487, 62 L.Ed.2d 410 (1979); 2 Pedrero v. Wainwright, 590 F.2d 1383, 1387 (5th Cir.), c......
  • Green v. Davis, Civil Action No. H-13-1899
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • August 18, 2020
    ...the opinion of psychiatric experts, the trial transcript, and the defendant's behavior during trial generally. See Reese v. Wainwright , 600 F.2d 1085, 1091 (5th Cir. 1979) ; Martin v. Estelle , 583 F.2d 1373, 1374 (5th Cir. 1978). In light of the record of Green's conduct at trial and the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
77 cases
  • Herrera v. Stephens, CIVIL ACTION NO. H-13-2432
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • July 18, 2014
    ...(2) the defendant's bearing and demeanor at the time of trial; and (3) prior medical opinions." Id. (citing Reese v. Wainwright, 600 F.2d 1085, 1091 (5th Cir. 1979)). Herrera offers no medical or psychiatric records, or other evidence, to support his claim of mental incompetence. There is n......
  • Luna v. Davis, CIVIL NO. SA-15-CA-451-XR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • September 24, 2018
    ...is persuasive evidence in and of itself that no violation occurred. Medina v. California, 505 U.S. 437, 450 (1992); Reese v. Wainwright, 600 F.2d 1085, 1092 (5th Cir. 1979). Thus, Petitioner's testimony did not indicate a lack of rationality, understanding, or ability to communicate that sh......
  • Goode v. Wainwright, No. 82-5244
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • May 2, 1983
    ...defendant's competence to stand trial, the defendant has a due process right to a Page 597 hearing on that issue. Reese v. Wainwright, 600 F.2d 1085, 1091 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 983, 100 S.Ct. 487, 62 L.Ed.2d 410 (1979); 2 Pedrero v. Wainwright, 590 F.2d 1383, 1387 (5th Cir.), c......
  • Green v. Davis, Civil Action No. H-13-1899
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • August 18, 2020
    ...the opinion of psychiatric experts, the trial transcript, and the defendant's behavior during trial generally. See Reese v. Wainwright , 600 F.2d 1085, 1091 (5th Cir. 1979) ; Martin v. Estelle , 583 F.2d 1373, 1374 (5th Cir. 1978). In light of the record of Green's conduct at trial and the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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