Stone v. United States

Decision Date02 August 1960
Docket NumberCrim. No. 24234.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of California
PartiesGerald Lionel STONE, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES of America, Respondent.

Laughlin E. Waters, U. S. Atty., and Robert J. Jenson, Asst. U. S. Atty., Los Angeles, Cal., for plaintiff.

Maurice Goodstein, Los Angeles, Cal., for defendant.

HALL, Chief Judge.

This is a proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

The sole ground on which it is based is that the defendant (Petitioner) was insane at the time of entering his plea of guilty.

On April 27, 1955, the defendant was indicted in three counts for three separate bank robberies. In Count I it was charged that he put in jeopardy the life of Jerry Lee Caraco, and in Count III it was charged that he put in jeopardy the life of Leonore Rennie.

On arraignment on May 2, 1955, it appearing that the defendant was without funds or property with which to employ counsel of his own choosing, the Court appointed Mr. Maurice Goodstein as his counsel. Thereafter, upon observation by the Court of defendant, the Court suggested to Mr. Goodstein that he give consideration as to whether or not the defendant should be psychiatrically examined. After continuance of one week, the Court appointed Dr. Edwin McNeil, an able and competent psychiatrist of long and wide experience, to examine the defendant, and report concerning whether the defendant was then presently insane, or unable to understand the proceedings against him, or unable to properly assist in his own defense. The examination was made on May 13, 1955, from 3:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.

The doctor reported his conclusions on May 16, 1955, as follows:

"At the time I examined this man he was oriented. He answered questions promptly, relevantly and coherently. He was not suffering from any delusions or hallucinations. He was not pathologically elated or depressed. He had memory of the events which led up to his arrest. In my opinion, he gave some of the defensive type of rationalizations which individuals involved in criminal behavior often express. However, in my opinion, there was no evidence of any major mental disturbance or psychosis.
"In my opinion, the defendant is presently mentally competent. In my opinion, the defendant is presently sane; the defendant is able to understand the proceedings against him; the defendant is able to properly assist in his own defense in Case No. 24,234-CD."

The matter was put over from May 16, 1955 to May 23, 1955 to enable counsel for both sides to read the report and to interview the doctor if they desired.

On May 23, 1955 counsel for defendant indicated that he had read the report, and was ready to proceed with the plea of the defendant. Defendant thereupon pleaded guilty to all three counts of the Indictment, the Court interrogated the defendant, accepted his plea of guilty, and the matter was put over for sentence to June 30, 1955, at which time the defendant was sentenced.1

A Reporter's complete transcript of all proceedings to time of sentence is attached hereto and made a part hereof, and marked Exhibit "A".

Thereafter, the defendant was committed to the custody of the Attorney General at McNeil Island. On February 25, 1956, defendant was committed to the U. S. Medical Center at Springfield, Missouri, as a "certified psychotic," where he has since been and still is. In January, 1959, defendant wrote a letter to the undersigned, which the Court considered as an effort to initiate proceedings under Section 2255 of Title 28 United States Code. The letter was called to the attention of the United States Attorney who corresponded with the authorities at Springfield, and thereafter Mr. Goodstein, counsel for defendant, was contacted, and he filed a formal motion under Section 2255 of Title 28 U.S.Code. The motion was set for hearing, and after several continuances it was heard on August 14, 1959, without the presence of the defendant. At that time, there was introduced letters from the authorities at Springfield, including a report of a staff examination dated March 31, 1959, which concluded as follows:

"Recommendations: The NP staff is of the opinion that: (1) Gerald L. Stone has been seriously mentally ill for a long period of time. His illness is presently in remission to the extent that he can be regarded as competent to understand his present situation as a convicted person and to pursue an action in court seeking relief (understand the proceedings and assist counsel). (2) In the light of previous and present findings and the knowledge of his present and past mental status, Gerald L. Stone has probably been mentally ill for several years. There is reason to believe that he was probably mentally ill at the time of the commission of his offense for which he is currently serving a sentence, and that the acts of that offense were the product of his delusions. (3) Because of his delusions, Gerald L. Stone was very likely incompetent to stand trial because he was not able to properly assist his counsel in his own defense or understand the true nature of the proceedings against him."

The questions then, are: (1) Whether or not such findings, vague and nebulous as they are, made four years after the defendant has pleaded, can impeach the judgment and finding of the Court made at the time of plea upon the uncontested evidence consisting of the report of a competent and qualified psychiatrist based upon an examination made at the time of plea, and the court's own observations, and (2) whether or not such findings compel another hearing on that issue. It is to be noted that counsel for defendant did not either contest the report or ask that the psychiatrist be produced for cross-examination.

In this connection, attention is called to the fact that the Court had an opportunity to observe the defendant, and questioned him at length on his plea of guilty, as will be seen from the transcript. His answers were intelligent and quickly given. His attitude was arrogant and boastful.

Where the question of the then sanity of a defendant, or his mental capacity to understand the proceedings against him and assist in his defense is raised before plea, and compliance is had with 18 U.S.C. § 4244, and the defendant then pleads guilty and the plea is accepted by the Court, and sentence imposed, the acceptance of the plea by the Court is a finding on such issues, and such finding is not subject to collateral attack by habeas corpus or proceedings under Section 2255 of Title 28 U.S.Code. Dodd v. United States, 10 Cir., 1952, 196 F.2d 190, certiorari denied 72 S.Ct. 1084, 96 L. Ed. 1374; 10 Cir., 1954, 343 U.S. 987, 213 F.2d 854; 10 Cir., 1955, 222 F.2d 175; Handlon v. United States, 6 Cir., 1957, 246 F.2d 866.

In the Dodd case, much the same procedure occurred as here: the Court appointed counsel and referred the matter to a qualified psychiatrist. After reports on each of two defendants that each was so mentally competent as to be able to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his own defense, the defendants each pleaded guilty, which pleas were accepted by the court. The court thereupon sentenced each of the defendants.

In that connection, the court said as follows: (196 F.2d 190, at page 191):

"1 By the court's acceptance of the pleas of guilty in these circumstances, it resolved the issue of the appellants' mental capacity to know and understand the nature of the charge against them and to assist in their defense, and its judgments thereon are not subject to collateral attack. Hahn v. United States, 10 Cir., 178 F.2d 11; McMahan v. Hunter, 10 Cir., 150 F.2d 498; Srygley v. Sanford, 5 Cir., 148 F.2d 264; Hall v. Johnston, 9 Cir., 86 F. 2d 820; Whitney v. Zerbst, 10 Cir., 62 F.2d 970. Cf. Frame v. Hudspeth, 10 Cir., 109 F.2d 356; Hallowell v. Hunter, 10 Cir., 186 F.2d 873."

The defendant here also claims insanity at the time of the commission of the crime. But under the authority of the Dodd case, supra (222 F.2d 175, 176) that question cannot now be raised by collateral attack in view of defendant's plea of guilty.

Inasmuch as petitioner is not entitled to the relief asked on the matter of his mental competence as a matter of law, and inasmuch as no other questions are raised which are matters of fact, no hearing is required. Hill v. United States, 6 Cir., 1955, 223 F.2d 699, at page 700.

The Court holds that the motion and the files and the records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, and

It Is Therefore Hereby Ordered, Adjudged and Decreed that the motion of defendant to vacate his sentence be, and the same is denied.

Exhibit "A"

"In The United States District Court Southern District of California Central Division

Honorable Peirson M. Hall, Judge Presiding

United States of America, | Plaintiff, | v. > No. 24234-Criminal Gerald Lionel Stone, | Defendant. | Reporter's Transcript of Proceedings Los Angeles, California Monday, May 2, 1955

                For the Plaintiff: Laughlin E. Waters
                                   United States Attorney
                                   Los Angeles 12, California
                                   Bruce A. Bevan, Jr
                                   Assistant U. S. Attorney
                For the Defendant: Maurice Mac Goodstein
                         Index                       Page
                Hearing of May 2, 1955                           1
                Hearing of May 9, 1955                           6
                Hearing of May 16, 1955                          9
                Hearing of May 23, 1955                         12
                Hearing of June 20, 1955                        18

Los Angeles, California; Monday, May 2, 1955; 10:00 A. M.

(Other court matters.)

"The Clerk: Case No. 24234, United States v. Gerald Lionel Stone.

"Gerald Lionel Stone, is that your full true name?

"The Defendant: Yes.

"The Clerk: You are in the United States District Court charged in an indictment, a copy of which I hand you, with violating the laws of the United States.

"You are...

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2 cases
  • Stone v. United States, 18810.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • March 11, 1966
    ...that appellant was entitled to no relief. The court's reasoning is reflected in the following extract from its opinion, reported at 196 F.Supp. 386, "Where the question of the then sanity of a defendant, or his mental capacity to understand the proceedings against him and assist in his defe......
  • Sturrup v. United States, 2801-CR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • May 30, 1963
    ...States, 10th Cir., 1955, 222 F.2d 175, or by a finding of competency by the trial Judge, Stone v. United States, D.C. Calif., 1960, 196 F.Supp. 386. But it does not appear that such a determination was made in this case. Cf: Taylor v. United States, 8th Cir., 1960, 282 F.2d 16; Smith v. Uni......

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