U.S. v. Read, 17-10439

Decision Date14 March 2019
Docket NumberNo. 17-10439,17-10439
Citation918 F.3d 712
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jonathan Lee READ, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Davina T. Chen (argued), Glendale, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

Peter S. Kozinets (argued), Assistant United States Attorney; Krissa M. Lanham, Deputy Appellate Chief; Elizabeth A. Strange, First Assistant United States Attorney, District of Arizona; United States Attorney’s Office Phoenix, Arizona; for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Michael Daly Hawkins, Milan D. Smith, Jr., and Andrew D. Hurwitz, Circuit Judges.

HAWKINS, Senior Circuit Judge:

We address a question of first impression: whether a criminal defendant has the Sixth Amendment right to demand that counsel not present an insanity defense. We hold that McCoy v. Louisiana , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 1500, 200 L.Ed.2d 821 (2018), requires under the facts of this case that the demand be honored. We therefore reverse and remand for a new trial.

a. Read was charged with assaulting his cellmate.

While serving a sentence for attempted robbery in the Federal Correctional Institute in Phoenix, Arizona ("FCI-Phoenix"), Jonathan Lee Read stabbed his cellmate thirteen times with a homemade knife. Read’s relationship with his cellmates had previously been without tension. When detained, Read claimed he had no memory of the attack.

Read was charged with one count each of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do bodily harm, and assault with a deadly weapon resulting in serious bodily injury, both in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a), which prohibits assaults "within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States." Id.

b. Read was ultimately deemed competent to stand trial.

Upon the motion of appointed counsel, Read was initially admitted to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles for evaluation of his competency. Two months later, Dr. Lesli Johnson, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist, issued a report diagnosing Read with schizophrenia and severe cannabis use disorder. Dr. Johnson’s diagnosis of schizophrenia was based on Read’s delusional thoughts regarding Christianity, Satan, and demonization. She noted that Read appeared to respond to internal stimuli and that his thought and speech patterns were disorganized when he discussed his delusionally-focused beliefs. The district court accepted the report, found Read incompetent to stand trial, and ordered him committed for hospitalization, treatment, and restoration, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 4241 and 4247. Read was admitted to the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri.

Four months later, Dr. Allison Schenk, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, determined that Read was competent to stand trial. Dr. Schenk also took note of Read’s unusual beliefs, reporting that Read claimed he was experiencing the sensation of having his stomach cut with a knife, caused by a person’s use of a "voodoo doll" against him. Dr. Schenk determined that Read suffered from schizotypal personality disorder and cannabis use disorder, but nonetheless determined that Read was competent to stand trial.

Based on Dr. Schenk’s evaluation, and without objection from defense counsel, the court found Read competent to stand trial.

c. Read was evaluated to determine his sanity during the assault.

Read’s counsel arranged for an examination by Dr. John R. Walker III, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist, to assess his state of mind at the time of the alleged assault. Dr. Walker reported many of the same behaviors as had Drs. Johnson and Schenk. He concluded that Read’s psychosis rendered him unable to form criminal intent, and that Read was likely still psychotic at the time of the examination.

Read’s appointed counsel then filed a Notice of Insanity Defense. In response, the government requested an examination of Read pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4242(a). The court granted the government’s motion.

Read was admitted to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina ("FMC-Butner") for the examination. FMC-Butner eventually issued a report concluding that Read was not insane at the time of the alleged offense. The report was prepared by Sumandeep Kaur, a doctoral psychology intern, under the supervision of forensic psychologist Dr. Angela Walden Weaver, Ph.D. Ms. Kaur reported that, during the evaluation, Read claimed he was suffering from "demonization" rather than mental illness. She diagnosed Read with schizotypal personality disorder and cannabis use disorder, and opined that Read was able to appreciate the nature, quality, and wrongfulness of his alleged criminal acts. The district court ordered Read’s return to the District of Arizona.

d. Read successfully moved to proceed without counsel.

Read then asked to proceed without counsel. Following a Faretta hearing,1 the court held that Read had a right to do so, finding that he "knowingly and voluntarily waived the right to counsel." Read’s appointed counsel was named as standby counsel.

e. The court vacated its order and reappointed counsel for Read.

Prior to the final trial management conference, advisory counsel told the government that Read might abandon an insanity defense in favor of a defense based on demonic possession. At the final pretrial conference, Read did just that. The judge subsequently asked Read if he intended to call any witnesses to discuss his mental condition. Read said that he would call Dr. Walker, the neuropathologist who had opined that Read was insane at the time of the alleged assault. However, shortly thereafter, Read told the court, "I completely withdraw the insanity. That’s not an option for me." The judge asked Read to clarify, and Read confirmed that he did not wish to present an insanity defense.

The government responded that, if Read was withdrawing his insanity defense, then Dr. Walker could offer no relevant testimony. When the court asked him what defense he intended to pursue, Read responded:

My civil rights have been violated. I’ve been tied in with so many other people that I have nothing to do with. Incarcerated. My faith, my belief system is not—what is that—extreme Islamic. I believe in—I’m a believer in Christianity. And there’s been a lot of things going on in prison that the prison system itself has brought upon itself.

The court responded that Dr. Walker’s testimony about his mental condition would not be relevant to such a defense. Read then said he wanted Dr. Walker to testify about cases of demonic possession that he had observed in inmates besides Read. The court affirmed that such testimony would not be relevant. Read responded, "All right. I guess we can scratch—scratch that."

The court then asked Read if he wished to continue representing himself. Read said that he did. The court asked Read’s standby counsel, if he had any concerns about Read’s competence to proceed without counsel. Mr. Williams said that he was concerned because Read did not seem to understand the legal distinction between a defense of insanity and his proposed defense. The court again asked standby counsel if he thought Read was competent to represent himself. Counsel said that he did not know.

The court responded that it would consider whether Read’s standby counsel should be reappointed. Standby counsel explained that he would present an insanity defense if reappointed; he noted that the very reason that Read had wanted to proceed pro se in the first place was because he did not want an insanity defense.

Over Read’s objection, the district court reappointed standby counsel to act as Read’s counsel. The court noted, "[T]he Constitution permits [judges] to insist upon representation by counsel for those competent enough to stand trial[,] ... but who still suffer from severe mental illness to the point where they are not competent to conduct trial proceedings by themselves." The court reasoned that "[t]his standard is met where the defendant’s behavior is ‘decidedly bizarre’ and his arguments in defense to the charges against him are nonsensical." The court found that Read’s "beliefs are bizarre and his representation will be wholly ineffective," because "[h]is anticipated defense, that he is possessed by demons and that other inmates are also possessed, is not a legal defense and is based on his bizarre beliefs." Despite these comments, at no point did the district court revisit Read’s competency.

Counsel ably, but unsuccessfully, proceeded to present an insanity defense at trial. Read was convicted and sentenced to concurrent 82-month terms. This timely appeal followed.

I. Whether the Jurisdictional Element Was Alleged and Proved

Read was charged under 18 U.S.C. § 113(a), which prohibits an assault "within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States."Id . This jurisdiction includes "[a]ny lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, and under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building." 18 U.S.C. § 7(3).

Read argues that the government presented insufficient evidence that the assault took place "within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States." Read also claims the indictment must be dismissed for failing to state the jurisdictional element of the offenses. Neither argument is persuasive.

a. Sufficiency of the Evidence

The existence of federal jurisdiction over the place in which the offense occurred is an element of the offenses defined at 18 U.S.C. § 113(a), which must be proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. See United States v. Gaudin , 515 U.S. 506, 510, 115 S.Ct. 2310, 132 L.Ed.2d 444 (1995). Read claims that the government’s failure to submit historical documents establishing...

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