U.S. v. Lebron, No. 95-1096

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BOUDIN; ROSENN
Citation76 F.3d 29
Docket NumberNo. 95-1096
Decision Date08 January 1996
PartiesUNITED STATES, Appellee, v. Jose LEBRON, Defendant-Appellant. . Heard

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76 F.3d 29
UNITED STATES, Appellee,
v.
Jose LEBRON, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 95-1096.
United States Court of Appeals,
First Circuit.
Heard Jan. 8, 1996.
Decided Feb. 14, 1996.

Page 30

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire, Steven J. McAuliffe, U.S. District Judge.

David A.F. Lewis, by Appointment of the Court, Boston, MA, for appellant.

Jean B. Weld, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Paul M. Gagnon, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

Before BOUDIN, Circuit Judge, COFFIN and ROSENN, * Senior Circuit Judges.

ROSENN, Senior Circuit Judge.

This appeal from a guilty plea and sentence requires that we consider the process due a defendant whose behavior may raise questions concerning his mental competency.

I.

A federal grand jury for the District of New Hampshire indicted Jose Lebron on ten counts stemming from his two armed robberies of a pawnshop and a bank in Manchester, New Hampshire. His co-defendants, Paul Hazen and Frank Jones, pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). The court imposed sentence and neither of them appealed. Lebron requested counsel under the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A. However, he vehemently objected to his court-appointed counsel and filed several motions with the court requesting new counsel. A magistrate judge denied the motion, finding that Lebron had not articulated sufficient reasons. The magistrate informed Lebron that he could either retain his appointed counsel, or proceed pro se.

At a hearing on Lebron's motion for a new court-appointed counsel, the district court found no valid reason to substitute counsel. The court informed Lebron that he could proceed pro se and that his court-appointed counsel would stand by, and take over the case if Lebron did not conform to courtroom rules. Lebron lost his temper, and his behavior prompted the marshals to handcuff him before the hearing ended. The court denied his motion for reconsideration. Lebron then filed a Renewed Motion for Reappointment of Counsel, in which he asserted that there was medication he could take which could "affect his ability to be aware of exactly what is happening around him."

On May 10, 1994, Lebron represented himself during jury selection. Although he initially asked for, and was denied, an interpreter, Lebron was able to communicate with the jury. Several of his objections to jury members were granted. After jury selection, the court held an ex parte session with Lebron and his counsel to enable them to air the disagreements between them without compromising the attorney-client privilege. At this session, the judge informed Lebron that he had done a good job in jury selection, but that he was "not competent to represent himself in the sense he's not aware of fundamental issues that ought to be raised on his behalf." Lebron concedes that the district court meant this statement to refer to Lebron's competence as an attorney, not to Lebron's mental competence. At the same ex parte session, Lebron's counsel informed the court that Lebron used to receive prescriptions for thorazine (an antipsychotic) and trazodone (an antidepressant) from the Veteran's Administration hospital, and that he would like to take these drugs during the trial.

In response, the judge alerted the Government that Lebron had a previous psychiatric history. He believed that this might be relevant to the defendant's ability to intelligently waive his right to counsel. The court then held a hearing later that day to determine the issue of Lebron's competency, and whether Lebron should be permitted to take his requested drugs during trial. The court took testimony from Dr. Nathan Sidley, the prison psychiatrist. Sidley stated that he had briefly reviewed Lebron's Veteran's Administration medical records, which revealed a possible diagnosis of schizophrenia in the 1970s. Sidley had attempted to meet with Lebron, but Lebron terminated their meeting within the first five minutes, upon learning that their discussion would not be confidential. Sidley concluded that, based on

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these facts, Lebron was not psychotic, and was competent to stand trial. He further concluded that any possible benefits from the drugs Lebron requested were outweighed by the detriments of giving him massive quantities needed without sufficient time for the drugs to build up in his bloodstream.

Lebron then testified that he was using heroin and Valium, and that he had both drugs in his system at the time. Two days later, the district court judge issued an order which continued the trial date, permitted Lebron's counsel to withdraw, and appointed Paul Twomey as new counsel for Lebron.

The next day, the Government and Twomey jointly filed a request for a psychiatric evaluation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241, which the court granted. The parties agreed that Dr. Albert Druktenis should perform the evaluation. Druktenis met with Lebron and evaluated him pursuant to the court's order to determine both Lebron's sanity at the time of the offense, and his competency to stand trial now. Druktenis concluded that Lebron was not insane at the time of the offense, and that he was competent to stand trial. He noted that Lebron's personality was manipulative, but that he was aware of the charges against him, and had been able to speak intelligently, lucidly and logically at court hearings. Druktenis also addressed the issue of Lebron's current medications, and noted that they "would not cloud his thinking in any substantial way and, in fact, are probably helping him by reducing anxiety and agitation."

After the psychiatrist submitted this report, Lebron withdrew his motion to dismiss based on incompetency, and the parties reached a...

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25 practice notes
  • Taylor v. Davis, No. C-92-1627 EMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • February 26, 2016
    ...that his impairments did not affect his comprehension of legal concepts.” Id. at 243–44.Respondent also relies on United States v. Lebron , 76 F.3d 29 (1st Cir.1996), where the defendant argued that the trial court should have held a competency hearing. The First Circuit disagreed, finding ......
  • U.S. v. Leggett, No. 96-7772
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • December 3, 1998
    ...Cir.1996) (stating that a finding of "reasonable cause" dictates whether a court conducts a competency hearing); United States v. Lebron, 76 F.3d 29, 32 (1st Cir.) (same), cert. denied, 518 U.S. 1011, 116 S.Ct. 2537, 135 L.Ed.2d 1060 (1996); United States v. Nichols, 56 F.3d 403, 414 (2d Ci......
  • United States v. Basham, No. 13–9.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • June 15, 2015
    ...not necessarily render a defendant incompetent. See Robinson, 404 F.3d at 858 ; Burket, 208 F.3d at 192 ; see also United States v. Lebron, 76 F.3d 29, 32 (1st Cir.1996) ( “[I]rrational and outrageous behavior in the courtroom ... may be uncontrolled, manipulative, or even theatrical. It is......
  • United States v. Brown, Nos. 09–2402
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 19, 2012
    ...of the defendant whatsoever, the appellate court reviews the district court's findings comprehensively.” United States v. Lebron, 76 F.3d 29, 32 (1st Cir.1996). The test for competency is whether the defendant first has sufficient present ability to consult with counsel with a reasonable de......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • Taylor v. Davis, No. C-92-1627 EMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • February 26, 2016
    ...that his impairments did not affect his comprehension of legal concepts.” Id. at 243–44.Respondent also relies on United States v. Lebron , 76 F.3d 29 (1st Cir.1996), where the defendant argued that the trial court should have held a competency hearing. The First Circuit disagreed, finding ......
  • U.S. v. Leggett, No. 96-7772
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • December 3, 1998
    ...Cir.1996) (stating that a finding of "reasonable cause" dictates whether a court conducts a competency hearing); United States v. Lebron, 76 F.3d 29, 32 (1st Cir.) (same), cert. denied, 518 U.S. 1011, 116 S.Ct. 2537, 135 L.Ed.2d 1060 (1996); United States v. Nichols, 56 F.3d 403, 414 (2d Ci......
  • United States v. Basham, No. 13–9.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • June 15, 2015
    ...not necessarily render a defendant incompetent. See Robinson, 404 F.3d at 858 ; Burket, 208 F.3d at 192 ; see also United States v. Lebron, 76 F.3d 29, 32 (1st Cir.1996) ( “[I]rrational and outrageous behavior in the courtroom ... may be uncontrolled, manipulative, or even theatrical. It is......
  • United States v. Brown, Nos. 09–2402
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 19, 2012
    ...of the defendant whatsoever, the appellate court reviews the district court's findings comprehensively.” United States v. Lebron, 76 F.3d 29, 32 (1st Cir.1996). The test for competency is whether the defendant first has sufficient present ability to consult with counsel with a reasonable de......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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