U.S. v. Leggett, No. 96-7772

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtROTH; McKEE
Citation162 F.3d 237
Docket NumberNo. 96-7772
Decision Date03 December 1998
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Michael K. LEGGETT, Appellant.

Page 237

162 F.3d 237
UNITED STATES of America
v.
Michael K. LEGGETT, Appellant.
No. 96-7772.
United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.
Argued May 18, 1998.
Decided Dec. 3, 1998.

Page 239

David M. Barasch, United States Attorney, Middle District of Pennsylvania, Frederick E. Martin (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, Williamsport, PA, for Appellee.

Mark R. Lippman (argued), La Jolla, CA, for Appellant.

Before: ROTH and McKEE, Circuit Judges, and O'NEILL, 1 District Judge.

OPINION OF THE COURT

ROTH, Circuit Judge:

Michael K. Leggett appeals from a judgment of conviction and sentence entered in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. He was convicted of assaulting a prison official in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111. Leggett makes three claims on appeal: (1) the district court erred in not ordering sua sponte a competency hearing before the commencement of the trial, (2) the district court failed to ensure that Leggett validly waived his right to testify, and (3) the district court improperly concluded that Leggett forfeited his right to counsel at sentencing when he physically attacked his attorney. We find each of Leggett's claims to be without merit and will therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.

I.

In February 1994, Leggett, who was serving a prison term for bank robbery and assault at a federal penitentiary in Indiana, was transferred to the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in White Deer, Pennsylvania. Upon his arrival at Allenwood,

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Leggett resided in a single cell. On April 19 of that year, Dr. Stephen Karten, Allenwood's chief psychologist, recommended that Leggett remain in a single cell due to his inability to live peacefully with another inmate. However, due to an influx of new inmates, some single-cell inmates had to be relocated to double cells. On April 21, Leggett's name was taken off the list of inmates eligible for single cells, and Leggett was required to move his belongings to another cell in anticipation of being assigned a cellmate.

Donn Troutman served as Leggett's unit manager at this time and was responsible for Leggett's housing assignment. When Leggett discovered that he was losing his single-cell status, he went to Troutman's office to complain. Leggett told Troutman that he had been waiting all day to speak to him and, after Troutman stepped outside his office, Leggett punched him in the face. Leggett attempted additional blows which were deflected by Troutman. Leggett then grabbed Troutman's necktie and tried to strangle him with it. Eventually, Troutman, who was five inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than Leggett, was able to subdue him with the assistance of several prison guards. Troutman suffered multiple cuts to his face as a result of the attack.

An assistant federal public defender, D. Toni Byrd, was assigned to represent Leggett at his trial for the assault on Troutman. However, due to disputes between Leggett and Byrd concerning jury selection and delay of the trial, Leggett sought to discharge Byrd and requested the appointment of new counsel. On July 26, 1995, the district court held a hearing at which Leggett and Byrd explained the bases for their disagreements. After the hearing, the district court denied Leggett's motion to dismiss his counsel. Nevertheless, several days later, Byrd sought leave to withdraw from the case, due mainly to threats of physical harm. 2 The district court allowed Byrd to withdraw and, in her place, assigned G. Scott Gardner to represent Leggett.

Gardner represented Leggett throughout the trial, which began on November 3, 1995, and continued on November 7, 8 and 9. At one point during the trial (on November 8), Gardner expressed concern to the district court that Leggett, against the advice of counsel, wished to testify. The district court expressly encouraged Leggett to heed Gardner's advice. On the following day, at the close of evidence, Leggett had not yet testified and the district court asked Gardner at sidebar whether the defense had any further evidence to present. Gardner indicated that the defense had nothing further. On November 13, the jury returned a verdict of guilty.

In the ensuing months, Leggett, both with the assistance of Gardner and pro se, moved to set aside the verdict and issued objections to the presentence report. The district court denied the motions, overruled the objections, and set sentencing for March 25, 1996. On March 25, Leggett entered the courtroom in the company of two United States Marshals. Upon seeing Gardner in the courtroom, Leggett lunged at his attorney and punched him in the head, knocking him to the ground. While Gardner lay, supine, Leggett straddled him and began to choke, scratch and spit on him. The Marshals and a probation officer restrained Leggett and removed him from the courtroom. Gardner was taken to a hospital by emergency medical personnel and treated for cuts, scratches and bruises. The district court then allowed Gardner to withdraw as counsel and concluded that Leggett had forfeited his right to counsel for the sentencing hearing.

In April 1996, Leggett moved for a competency hearing. The district court granted this motion so that it could determine whether Leggett was competent to represent himself at sentencing. The district court appointed yet another attorney, Thomas Thornton, to represent Leggett solely at the competency hearing. In October 1996, the district court conducted the competency

Page 241

hearing, at which it heard testimony from various mental-health professionals concerning Leggett's behavior. At the conclusion of the hearing, the district court reaffirmed its decision that Leggett had forfeited his right to counsel and concluded that he was competent to represent himself at sentencing. In November 1996, Leggett appeared for sentencing without counsel. The district court imposed a sentence of 36 months' imprisonment to be served consecutively to the other terms Leggett had previously received. This appeal followed.

II.

On appeal, Leggett makes the following three claims: (1) the district court erred in declining sua sponte to order a competency hearing before the start of the trial, (2) the district court improperly failed to make certain that Leggett validly waived his right to testify during the trial, and (3) the district court erroneously concluded that Leggett forfeited his right to counsel at sentencing. The district court had jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3231. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

A. The Pre-Trial Competency Hearing

We will first consider Leggett's claim that the district court erred in declining to conduct a competency hearing before the trial began. Since we must decide whether the district court properly applied the standard for determining the necessity of a competency hearing, our review is plenary. United States v. Renfroe, 825 F.2d 763, 766 (3d Cir.1987). We note that, if the proper legal standard has been applied, factual findings regarding competency are reviewed for clear error. United States v. Velasquez, 885 F.2d 1076, 1089 (3d Cir.1989); Renfroe, 825 F.2d at 766 n. 4.

Fundamental to an adversarial system of justice is the precept that "a person whose mental condition is such that [the person] lacks the capacity to understand the nature and the object of the proceedings[,] ... to consult with counsel, and to assist in preparing [a] defense may not be subjected to a trial." Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975). The conviction of a legally incompetent defendant violates due process. Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966). In keeping with this unwillingness to try incompetents, we have a statutory directive providing that a criminal defendant whose competency is in question may be subjected to a competency hearing. 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). 3 If neither the defendant nor the government moves for such a hearing, the trial court may do so on its own motion. Id. To do so, however, the trial court must have "reasonable cause" to believe that the defendant is "presently" suffering from an impairment resulting in mental incompetency. Id.; see also Renfroe, 825 F.2d at 766-67 (holding that court must have "reasonable doubt" as to defendant's ability to grasp proceedings to order a competency hearing); United States v. Davis, 93 F.3d 1286, 1290 (6th Cir.1996) (noting that district court must have " 'reasonable cause to believe' the defendant [is] incompetent") (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a)); United States v. George, 85 F.3d 1433, 1437 (9th 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 Cir.1995) (same); United States v. Morgano, 39 F.3d 1358, 1375 (7th Cir.1994) (affirming district court's denial of motion for competency hearing based on absence of reasonable cause to doubt defendant's competency); United States v. Williams, 998 F.2d

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258, 266 (5th Cir.1993) (affirming district court's denial of motion for psychiatric examination due to absence of reasonable cause to doubt defendant's competency).

A defendant is competent to stand trial if (1) the defendant has the " 'present ability to consult with [defense counsel] with a reasonable degree of rational understanding' " and (2) the defendant has a " 'rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings.' " Drope, 420 U.S. at 172, 95 S.Ct. 896 (quoting Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960)); Renfroe, 825 F.2d at 766-67; Lebron, 76 F.3d at 31; Nichols, 56 F.3d at 410; United States v. Soldevila-Lopez, 17 F.3d 480, 489 (1st Cir.1994). In determining whether a defendant satisfies this two-prong test, a court...

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148 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Gabrion, Nos. 02–1386
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 17 Noviembre 2011
    ...his right to counsel by his extremely serious misconduct, at least two other circuits have so held, e.g., United States v. Leggett, 162 F.3d 237, 250–51 (3d Cir.1998); United States v. McLeod, 53 F.3d 322, 325 (11th Cir.1995). We express no opinion here as to whether the right to counsel ma......
  • State v. Carruthers
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • 11 Diciembre 2000
    ...waived or forfeited if a defendant manipulates, abuses, or utilizes the right to delay or disrupt a trial. See United States v. Leggett, 162 F.3d 237, 249 (3rd Cir.1998) (holding that defendant forfeited his right to counsel when he physically assaulted his attorney); United States v. Goldb......
  • 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
    • 26 Febrero 2016
    ...in United States v. Leggett, the trial court held a competency hearing after defendant was convicted of assault but before sentencing. 162 F.3d 237, 240–41 (3d Cir.1998). On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court should have held a sua sponte competency hearing prior to the start of ......
  • Tatar v. United States, Civ. No. 13-3317 (RBK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • 9 Febrero 2016
    ...483 U.S. 44, 51-52 (1987). "The right is personal and can be waived only by the defendant, not defense counsel." Unites States v. Leggett, 162 F.3d 237, 245 (3d Cir.1998) (citations omitted). "If a defendant does waive this right, the waiver must be knowing, voluntary and intelligent." Id. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
148 cases
  • U.S. v. Gabrion, Nos. 02–1386
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 17 Noviembre 2011
    ...his right to counsel by his extremely serious misconduct, at least two other circuits have so held, e.g., United States v. Leggett, 162 F.3d 237, 250–51 (3d Cir.1998); United States v. McLeod, 53 F.3d 322, 325 (11th Cir.1995). We express no opinion here as to whether the right to counsel ma......
  • State v. Carruthers
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • 11 Diciembre 2000
    ...waived or forfeited if a defendant manipulates, abuses, or utilizes the right to delay or disrupt a trial. See United States v. Leggett, 162 F.3d 237, 249 (3rd Cir.1998) (holding that defendant forfeited his right to counsel when he physically assaulted his attorney); United States v. Goldb......
  • 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
    • 26 Febrero 2016
    ...in United States v. Leggett, the trial court held a competency hearing after defendant was convicted of assault but before sentencing. 162 F.3d 237, 240–41 (3d Cir.1998). On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court should have held a sua sponte competency hearing prior to the start of ......
  • Tatar v. United States, Civ. No. 13-3317 (RBK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • 9 Febrero 2016
    ...483 U.S. 44, 51-52 (1987). "The right is personal and can be waived only by the defendant, not defense counsel." Unites States v. Leggett, 162 F.3d 237, 245 (3d Cir.1998) (citations omitted). "If a defendant does waive this right, the waiver must be knowing, voluntary and intelligent." Id. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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