U.S. ex rel. Rivers v. Franzen

Decision Date10 November 1982
Docket NumberNo. 81-2599,81-2599
Citation692 F.2d 491
PartiesUNITED STATES of America ex rel. Clarence RIVERS, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Gayle M. FRANZEN and Tyrone Fahner, Respondents-Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Mark Sableman, Reuben & Proctor, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner-appellee.

Neal B. Goodfriend, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, Ill., for respondents-appellants.

Before CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, PELL, Circuit Judge, and GRANT, Senior District Judge. *

PELL, Circuit Judge.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254 (1976), the petitioner Clarence Rivers sought a writ of habeas corpus in the district court. The four claims of Rivers' amended petition alleged four procedural errors in Rivers' trial in state court: (1) that he was denied due process because of the trial court's failure to hold a post-trial hearing on his competence to have stood trial; (2) that he was in fact incompetent at trial; (3) that he was denied a post-trial examination regarding his competence at trial by an unbiased psychiatrist; and (4) that he was denied his right to cross-examine the psychiatrist who did conduct the post-trial examination as to his competency at trial. On September 3, 1981, the petition was granted by the district court on the first claim only in response to cross-motions for summary judgment. United States ex rel. Rivers v. Franzen, 522 F.Supp. 443 (N.D.Ill.1981). A motion for reconsideration was filed by the respondents based on the Supreme Court's decision in Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981). The motion was denied on September 22, 1981. The central issue presented to this court is whether Rivers was denied procedural due process by the state trial court's failure to hold a post-trial hearing on Rivers' competency to have stood trial.

I. Factual Background and Prior Proceedings

The petitioner was indicted on March 20, 1971, for the murder of his wife. During pre-trial discovery, counsel for the petitioner indicated that the defense of insanity might be raised at trial. On June 19, 1972, another attorney was substituted to represent Rivers, and the defense was not subsequently presented.

Pursuant to the petitioner's motion, the trial judge ordered the petitioner to undergo a mental examination. On July 13, 1972, Dr. Robert H. Reifman, Staff Psychiatrist for the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County, examined Rivers. On July 20, 1972, he reported to the court that Rivers was competent to stand trial. Rivers' trial began in December 1972. The petitioner asserted an alibi defense to the charges. No further motions to evaluate the petitioner's competency were made during the trial. On January 26, 1973, the trial court found the petitioner guilty of murder and entered judgment. A pre-sentencing investigation report was ordered by the court and a hearing on post-trial motions and sentencing was set for February 23, 1973.

In the February 23 hearing, counsel for the petitioner moved to suspend the sentencing so that a psychiatric examination of Rivers could be made and so that a hearing on competency could be held pursuant to the relevant provision of the Illinois statutes, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38 Sec. 104-2 (1971). The court granted leave for Rivers' counsel to file the motion. The motion was supported by an affidavit from Rivers' counsel that he had noted a mental deterioration in the petitioner and had been made aware of communications of the petitioner with relatives and friends that indicated Rivers was not aware of the nature and purpose of the proceedings. His counsel stated in court that these matters had only come to his attention a few days earlier in February. The court gave the petitioner additional time to supplement the motion and postponed any further rulings.

On March 9, 1973, Rivers' counsel filed his "Suggestions of Doubt of Competency of Accused." In it counsel referred to: (1) petitioner's disbelief that he could be punished for the murder of his wife when the verdict was explained to him by his counsel after trial; (2) his history of marital problems; (3) the nature of the crime committed; and (4) irrational letters the petitioner had written to a woman stating that he would be freed and become her lover. A letter attached as an exhibit and dated February 12, 1973, referred to "my [Rivers'] last letter to you." The "Suggestions" also stated that there were other letters to this same woman which had been destroyed. The trial court ordered a psychiatric examination of the petitioner.

On March 14, 1973, Dr. Reifman examined the petitioner and on March 30, 1973, reported to the court that Rivers was not then competent to be sentenced as "[h]e does not fully appreciate the seriousness of the guilty finding because of a mental condition." Counsel for the petitioner then moved to vacate the judgment because "[i]f he was incompetent [for sentencing] he may very well have been incompetent during the trial of this cause." The court then ordered another examination of Rivers by Dr. Reifman for a determination of Rivers' competency to have stood trial and his competency at the time of the offense.

On April 19, 1973, Dr. Reifman reported to the court that Rivers was still not mentally competent to be sentenced as of his examination on April 12, 1973; that he had no opinion on Rivers' sanity at the time of the alleged murder; and that Rivers had been competent to stand trial. The parties then stipulated that Rivers was not competent to be sentenced and the court remanded Rivers to the Illinois Department of Mental Health.

On June 18, 1973, Rivers was examined by Dr. Leonard Horecker, a staff psychiatrist at the Illinois Security Hospital. He reported to the court that Rivers was still mentally unfit for sentencing. Approximately seven months later, on January 30, 1974, Dr. Reifman examined Rivers and determined that he was then mentally fit to be sentenced.

On April 9, 1974, the trial court held a hearing limited to Rivers' competency to be sentenced. The court refused to allow Rivers' counsel to cross-examine Dr. Reifman on Rivers' competency during trial.

Dr. Reifman testified that he had been employed at the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County for ten years, during which time he had examined several thousand criminal defendants as to their mental condition pursuant to requests by the court. He had performed psychiatric examinations on the petitioner on July 13, 1972; March 14, 1973; April 12, 1973 and January 30, 1974. In the July 13, 1972 pre-trial examination, he had found no history of Rivers ever having seen a psychiatrist or of his being in a mental hospital. There were no remarks made by Rivers to Dr. Reifman that indicated Rivers was suffering from a mental illness.

In the March 14, 1973 post-trial examination to determine Rivers' competency to be sentenced, Dr. Reifman found Rivers to be exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia for the first time. The doctor testified that the symptoms of schizophrenia may be present in a dormant state and may first appear after a particularly stressful time. At the time of the April 12, 1973 examination he still considered the petitioner not fit to be sentenced because he "refused to believe that he had been found guilty and that as a result of being found guilty he was subject to sentencing by the Court." At this point in Dr. Reifman's testimony the following exchange took place between Dr. Reifman and Rivers' counsel:

Q. At any rate, during the trial you would say that he was in a period of remission, is that right?

* * *

* * *

A. No, it is my opinion that the disease became apparent after the trial, so I wouldn't say--you can't say a person is in a state of remission before the disease makes an appearance. Now he is in a state of remission, I believe.

Dr. Reifman also testified that in his last examination of Rivers on January 30, 1974, the petitioner understood that a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County had found him guilty of a crime and that he was going to be sentenced on the charge. He found that Rivers was still suffering from schizophrenia, but that the disease was in partial remission and would remain in a state of remission for several months.

The trial court ordered Dr. Reifman to examine Rivers yet again. On April 11, 1974, Dr. Reifman stated that the result of his examination was that the petitioner was competent for sentencing. The petitioner testified as to his understanding of the nature and purpose of the proceedings. Based on Dr. Reifman's testimony and its own observation of Rivers, the trial court found Rivers competent to be sentenced. The court denied Rivers' motion for a full hearing and an independent examination by another psychiatrist on his competency to have stood trial. On April 23, 1974, the court sentenced the petitioner to a term of thirty to ninety years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The petitioner appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, asserting that he was entitled to a post-trial hearing on his competency to have stood trial under the Illinois statute. The appellate court found that the Illinois statute contemplated a determination of fitness to stand trial prior to or during trial, but did not preclude such a determination after trial. In affirming the conviction, the court held that there was no abuse of the trial court's discretion in its refusal to hold a hearing and that no bona fide doubt of Rivers' fitness to stand trial was raised. People v. Rivers, 61 Ill.App.3d 376, 18 Ill.Dec. 609, 377 N.E.2d 1245 (1978). Leave to appeal was denied by the Supreme Court of Illinois. People v. Rivers, No. 6764 (Oct. 2, 1979).

The petitioner then filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Rivers and the respondent filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court, in evaluating the first claim of Rivers' petition, noted that the Illinois statutory scheme delineating...

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