State v. Reed, No. 24826.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtFINNEY, Chief Justice
Citation332 S.C. 35,503 S.E.2d 747
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. James Earl REED, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 24826.
Decision Date27 July 1998

332 S.C. 35
503 S.E.2d 747

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
James Earl REED, Appellant

No. 24826.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard October 22, 1997.

Decided July 27, 1998.

Rehearing Denied August 27, 1998.


332 S.C. 38
Chief Attorney Daniel T. Stacey, and Deputy Chief Attorney Joseph L. Savitz, III, both of South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, Columbia, for appellant

Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Deputy Attorney General John W. Mcintosh, and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Columbia; and Solicitor David P. Schwacke, North Charleston, for respondent.

FINNEY, Chief Justice:

Appellant James Earl Reed, was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend's parents. Appellant was sentenced to death. This appeal consolidates appellant's direct appeal with the mandatory review provisions of S.C.Code Ann. § 16-3-25 (1985). We affirm.

FACTS

A public defender and a private attorney were appointed to represent appellant. A hearing was held to determine whether appellant was competent to stand trial. Judge Howard concluded after the hearing that appellant was competent to stand trial. Subsequently, appellant requested to represent himself. After a hearing, the trial judge found appellant's request for self-representation was freely and voluntarily made. The private attorney was relieved of representation and the public defender was appointed to serve as standby counsel. Appellant represented himself during the guilt phase and waived his right to testify. The jury found him guilty of both murders.

Before the penalty phase began, appellant sought to change his relationship with standby counsel such that appellant

332 S.C. 39
would give the opening statement and counsel would continue. Appellant claimed he would be too emotional to cross-examine the victims' family. The trial judge refused to appoint counsel because it was too late in the proceeding and counsel would be unable to adequately prepare on short notice. The judge concluded that appellant was not entitled to either the appointment of counsel or to have standby counsel cross-examine the victim-impact witnesses. Standby counsel objected on the basis that appellant was not competent to represent himself at sentencing and asked to be appointed. The trial judge declined to appoint any counsel for appellant at sentencing since appellant had waived his right to counsel. At the conclusion of the penalty phase, the jury recommended and the judge sentenced appellant to death for both murders

ISSUES

I. Was it error to find appellant competent to stand trial and waive his right to counsel?
II. Was it error to allow appellant's statement into evidence?
III. Was it error to refuse to appoint counsel to represent appellant at sentencing?
IV. Was it error to fail to obtain a waiver of appellant's right to testify at the sentencing phase?

DISCUSSION

I. Appellant argues that the trial court erred in finding him competent to stand trial and waive his right to counsel. We disagree.

The test for determining whether a criminal defendant is competent to stand trial is "whether he has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and whether he has a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against him." Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960). The defendant bears the burden of proving his incompetence by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Nance, 320 S.C. 501, 466 S.E.2d 349, cert. denied, 518 U.S. 1026, 116 S.Ct. 2566, 135 L.Ed.2d 1083 (1996). The test

332 S.C. 40
is not whether the defendant is actually cooperating with his lawyer, but rather if he has the mental capacity to do so. State v. Bell, 293 S.C. 391, 360 S.E.2d 706 (1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1020, 108 S.Ct. 734, 98 L.Ed.2d 682 (1988). The trial court's determination of competency will be upheld if it has evidentiary support and is not against the preponderance of the evidence. State v. Nance, supra.

Dr. Behrmann examined appellant during his two month hospitalization at Hall Institute. Dr. Behrmann concluded that within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, appellant was competent to stand trial and had the ability to understand the nature of criminal proceedings. In Dr. Behrmann's opinion, appellant had the ability to understand the charges against him and to assist his counsel. Dr. Behrmann did not find appellant to be suffering from paranoia but concluded his failure to cooperate with appointed counsel was voluntary. Dr. Behrmann subsequently examined appellant for about forty-five minutes several months prior to trial. In Dr. Behrmann's opinion, appellant continued to be competent to stand trial. He concluded that appellant had a factual knowledge of the charges against him, the potential penalty he faced and his options in pleading. Dr. Behrmann did not find a mental illness or that appellant's decisions arose out of a delusional process. During appellant's hospitalization, staff observed that he was able to interact with staff and other patients normally and did not demonstrate a guarded, distrustful, suspicious kind of behavior normally expected from a person with a paranoid process.

The trial judge concluded that appellant had the factual understanding of the charges against him and a rational understanding of the proceedings and how the court works, and the roles of the various participants. The judge was convinced by the medical reports and testimony that appellant does not have a pervasive paranoia or paranoid behavior that affects his ability to interact and to cooperate. The judge found appellant had the present ability to rationally understand the proceedings and the ability to consult with his attorneys with a reasonable degree of rational understanding. His findings and conclusions were based on the forensic unit staffing report and the testimony of Dr. Behrmann and associates. The judge also found persuasive the staffing entries

332 S.C. 41
which showed appellant's ability to cooperate. In view of the evidentiary support in the record, we uphold the trial court's determination of competency. State v. Nance, supra.

After the court found appellant competent to stand trial, appellant moved to waive representation by appointed counsel and sought to represent...

To continue reading

Request your trial
63 practice notes
  • State v. Aleksey, No. 25212.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 13, 2000
    ...his desire to end the interrogation. Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452, 459, 114 S.Ct. 2350, 129 L.Ed.2d 362 (1994); State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 42, 503 S.E.2d 747, 750 (1998). Moreover, law enforcement officers may certainly speak with a suspect who reinitiates communication subsequent ......
  • State v. Edwards, No. 4261.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 21, 2007
    ...577, 575 S.E.2d 852 (Ct.App.2003). On appeal, we are limited to determining whether the trial judge abused his discretion. State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 503 S.E.2d 747 (1998); State v. Douglas, 367 S.C. 498, 626 S.E.2d 59 (Ct.App.2006) cert. pending; State v. Walker, 366 S.C. 643, 623 S.E.2d ......
  • State v. Moore, No. 4247.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 18, 2007
    ...S.C. 545, 564 S.E.2d 87 (2002)). On appeal, we are limited to determining whether the trial judge abused his discretion. State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 503 S.E.2d 747 (1998); Douglas, 367 S.C. at 506, 626 S.E.2d at 63; State v. Walker, 366 S.C. 643, 623 S.E.2d 122 (Ct. App.2005). An abuse of d......
  • State v. Humphries, No. 3380.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 6, 2001
    ...S.C. 196, 391 S.E.2d 244 (1990). On review, we are limited to determining whether the trial judge abused his discretion. State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 503 S.E.2d 747 (1998); State v. Rochester, supra. This Court does not re-evaluate the facts based on its own view of the preponderance of the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
63 cases
  • State v. Aleksey, No. 25212.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 13, 2000
    ...his desire to end the interrogation. Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452, 459, 114 S.Ct. 2350, 129 L.Ed.2d 362 (1994); State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 42, 503 S.E.2d 747, 750 (1998). Moreover, law enforcement officers may certainly speak with a suspect who reinitiates communication subsequent ......
  • State v. Edwards, No. 4261.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 21, 2007
    ...577, 575 S.E.2d 852 (Ct.App.2003). On appeal, we are limited to determining whether the trial judge abused his discretion. State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 503 S.E.2d 747 (1998); State v. Douglas, 367 S.C. 498, 626 S.E.2d 59 (Ct.App.2006) cert. pending; State v. Walker, 366 S.C. 643, 623 S.E.2d ......
  • State v. Moore, No. 4247.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 18, 2007
    ...S.C. 545, 564 S.E.2d 87 (2002)). On appeal, we are limited to determining whether the trial judge abused his discretion. State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 503 S.E.2d 747 (1998); Douglas, 367 S.C. at 506, 626 S.E.2d at 63; State v. Walker, 366 S.C. 643, 623 S.E.2d 122 (Ct. App.2005). An abuse of d......
  • State v. Humphries, No. 3380.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 6, 2001
    ...S.C. 196, 391 S.E.2d 244 (1990). On review, we are limited to determining whether the trial judge abused his discretion. State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 503 S.E.2d 747 (1998); State v. Rochester, supra. This Court does not re-evaluate the facts based on its own view of the preponderance of the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT