Rhodes v. United States

Decision Date11 August 1960
Docket NumberNo. 8043.,8043.
Citation282 F.2d 59
PartiesCharles G. RHODES, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Arthur T. Ciccarello and Samuel D. Lopinsky, Charleston, W. Va., for appellant.

Duncan W. Daugherty, U. S. Atty., Huntington, W. Va. (Ned O. Heinish, Asst. U. S. Atty., Huntington, W. Va., on brief), for appellee.

Before SOBELOFF, Chief Judge, and JOHN PAUL and THOMPSON,* District Judges.

SOBELOFF, Chief Judge.

Charles G. Rhodes, a real estate operator, was convicted of knowingly filing false statements and reports with the Huntington Federal Savings and Loan Association, in order to obtain a $20,000 loan.1 The false statements of which he was accused consisted of a deed of trust and note given as security for the loan, and purportedly signed by Rhodes' clients, Glenn C. Dowell and Norma L. Dowell, his wife. Rhodes made it appear on the deed of trust that he took the acknowledgment thereto of the Dowell's signatures. Actually, according to the testimony, Rhodes himself signed Mr. Dowell's name and caused a woman clerk to sign the name of Mrs. Dowell to each of these instruments. The check of the Building Association covering the proceeds of the loan was likewise endorsed by Rhodes and the clerk in the names of the Dowells. It was cleared through Rhodes' bank account and he appropriated the proceeds.

The defendant interposed two defenses. The first, which the defendant does not make a basis of this appeal, was that a long time before the alleged forgery the Dowells had executed to him a power of attorney to collect rents, make repairs and disbursements, and obtain loans on the property. No such instrument was produced; Rhodes claimed it had been lost in moving. In negotiating the loan he did not purport to act under any power of attorney. The Dowells denied executing such a paper.

The second defense was that the defendant was "mentally incapable of knowing that he was perpetrating any fraud or doing anything improper." The present appeal rests chiefly upon the claimed error of the District Court in excluding the testimony of a psychiatrist offered in support of this defense.

While it is true that the defense of insanity was not advanced it was still open to the defendant to introduce psychiatric testimony to show that by reason of his mental condition he was unable to form the requisite intent or mens rea which is an essential element of the crime charged.2 An intent beyond the mere doing of the act is not invariably required. Where, however, it is inherent in the offense, or the statute creating it prescribes as part of the definition that a specific state of mind shall accompany the act, as this statute does, a full exposition of the pertinent evidence is permitted if properly tendered.

Long ago this was treated as established doctrine in Hopt v. People, 1881, 104 U.S. 631, 26 L.Ed. 873, where it was held appropriate to show the absence of a requisite mental state, whether due to drunkenness or otherwise. Psychiatric testimony, if it has a bearing upon this issue, has a rightful place in the record.3 The American Law Institute's Model Penal Code formulates the rule as follows:

"Evidence that the defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect shall be admissible whenever it is relevant to prove that the defendant did or did not have a state of mind which is an element of the offense." § 4.02(1) Tentative Draft No. 4 (1955).4

The purpose of such testimony is to enlarge the vision and understanding of the triers of fact. It does not take the decision out of the hands of the jury, but allows those with specialized knowledge to enlighten the jury and enable it to perform its function intelligently. Rhodes v. United States, 4 Cir., 1960, 275 F.2d 78 and cases there cited. In Frankfeld v. United States, 4 Cir., 1952, 198 F.2d 679, Judge Parker made it clear that the ancient objection, that expert testimony must not relate to a matter which is for the decision of the jury, has been thoroughly exploded. Modern courts admit pertinent opinion testimony of experts within the area of their special competency.

The psychiatrist's testimony in this case was not made the subject of a general proffer, but was vouched in the absence of the jury by permitting the psychiatrist, Dr. Thelma V. Owen, to take the stand, and a series of questions was addressed to her by defendant's counsel. At the conclusion of the interrogation the court sustained the prosecutor's objection. Thus the court had before it, and we have before us, the precise testimony which the defense desired to adduce. There was and there is, therefore, no need to speculate as to the character and scope of the testimony that was excluded from the jury's consideration by the court's ruling.

After establishing the witness' professional qualifications, which are not challenged, defendant's trial counsel5 conducted the following examination:

"Q. Now I will ask you, Doctor Owen, based on your psychiatric examination and study of Charles Rhodes, in your opinion did Charles Rhodes knowingly make a false statement when he signed the name of Glenn C. Dowell and caused the name of Norma L. Dowell to be made to a deed of trust and note and delivered them to the Huntington Federal Savings and Loan Association on December 31, 1954?
"Mr. Daugherty: Now, Your Honor, please, I object.
"The Court: The witness may answer for the record. I will rule on it later.
"The Witness: It is my opinion that he did not.
"By Mr. Greene: Q. That he did not knowingly make —
"Q. Based upon your psychiatric examination and study of Charles Rhodes, in your opinion did he knowingly forge the name of Glenn C. Dowell and knowingly cause the name of Norma L. Dowell to be forged to the said note and deed of trust? A. In my opinion he did not."

There was no further elaboration. There was no attempt to point out that in Dr. Owen's opinion — if such was her opinion — the defendant, by reason of a delusion as to the existence of a power of attorney, or by reason of other mental disorder, was unable to knowingly make a false statement. Not only was nothing of the kind shown, but the testimony is completely consistent with the idea that Dr. Owen credited the defendant's assertion that he had a power of attorney authorizing him to sign the names of Glen C. Dowell and his wife. It is to be remembered that possession of such written authority was claimed by the defendant not only in the trial below but in this court, and he doubtless made the same representation to the examining psychiatrist. It is not farfetched, fanciful speculation that the proffered testimony took this claimed power of attorney into account as a...

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  • Stebbing v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • April 16, 1984
    ...an expert cannot express his opinion as to whether the defendant did or did not intend the wrong allegedly committed. Rhodes v. United States, 282 F.2d 59, 62 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 364 U.S. 912, 81 S.Ct. 275, 5 L.Ed.2d 226 (1960); State v. Donahue, 141 Conn. 656, 109 A.2d 364, 368-369 (......
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    ...appeal after remand, 184 F.2d 894 (2nd Cir. 1949), cert. denied, 340 U.S. 930, 71 S.Ct. 491, 95 L.Ed. 671 (1951). In Rhodes v. United States, 282 F.2d 59 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 364 U.S. 912, 81 S.Ct. 275, 5 L.Ed.2d 226 (1960), and Orthopedic Equipment Co. v. Eutsler, 276 F.2d 455 (4th Ci......
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    ...See Cenedella v. United States, 224 F.2d 778 (1 Cir. 1955); United States v. Kahaner, 317 F.2d 459 (2 Cir. 1963); Rhodes v. United States, 282 F.2d 59 (4 Cir. 1960), cert. den., 364 U.S. 912, 81 S.Ct. 275, 5 L.Ed.2d 226; United States v. Barnhill, 305 F.2d 164 (6 Cir. 1962), cert. den., 371......
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    ...429 U.S. 925, 97 S.Ct. 327, 50 L.Ed.2d 293 (1976); United States v. Brawner, 471 F.2d 969, 998-1002 (D.C.Cir.1972); Rhodes v. United States, 282 F.2d 59, 60-61 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 364 U.S. 912, 81 S.Ct. 275, 5 L.Ed.2d 226 (1960); see also United States v. Cameron, 907 F.2d 1051 (11th ......
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  • 18 APPENDIX U.S.C. § 12.2 Notice of an Insanity Defense; Mental Examination
    • United States
    • US Code Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
    • January 1, 2023
    ...also People v. Gorshen, 51 Cal.2d 716, 336 P.2d 492 (1959).The federal cases reach conflicting conclusions. See Rhodes v. United States, 282 F.2d 59, 62 (4th Cir. 1960):The proper way would have been to ask the witness to describe the defendant's mental condition and symptoms, his pathologi......

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