U.S. v. Reynolds

Citation646 F.3d 63
Decision Date17 May 2011
Docket NumberNo. 09–2504.,09–2504.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee,v.Bonny L. REYNOLDS, Defendant, Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)

Alan J. Black, by Appointment of the Court, for appellant.Renée M. Bunker, Assistant U.S. Attorney, with whom Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, was on brief for appellee.Before BOUDIN, Circuit Judge, SOUTER,*Associate Justice, and STAHL, Circuit Judge.STAHL, Circuit Judge.

A grand jury charged Bonny Reynolds with knowingly possessing two firearms after having been committed to a mental institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4); and, because the serial number on one of the firearms was obliterated, knowingly possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(k). After the district court determined that she was sufficiently competent, Reynolds opted for what became a one-day bench trial and was found guilty as charged. The district court sentenced Reynolds to a two-year term of imprisonment followed by three years' supervised release. Reynolds raises four issues on appeal, all of which relate, at least in part, to her competency. Specifically, she argues that, because of her mental infirmities, (1) she should not have been found competent to stand trial, (2) she did not voluntarily consent to the firearms search, (3) the judge could not be impartial and should have recused himself, and (4) she did not voluntarily waive her right to a jury trial. We affirm.

I. Background
A. Search and Seizure Incident1

At 11:00 A.M. on May 2, 2006, two uniformed police officers responded to investigate a call by Philip Bradford complaining of an unwelcome woman in his residence. When the officers arrived, Mr. Bradford explained to them that he had initially given the woman, Reynolds, permission to stay at his home, but that he wanted Reynolds to leave because she had failed to contribute to the rent. Although Officer Scott Harris believed the problem was a civil rather than a criminal matter, with Mr. Bradford's permission, he and his partner entered the home to continue their investigation.

Mr. Bradford told the officers that Reynolds had two unloaded firearms, and so the officers drew their guns when they proceeded towards the back bedroom where Mr. Bradford indicated Reynolds was living. Upon reaching the bedroom, Officer Harris knocked on the door and heard a woman inside say, “Come in.” The officers entered and saw Reynolds lying on the bed. Officer Harris asked Reynolds whether she had any guns. Reynolds answered yes and pointed to the headboard behind her. The guns were not visible. Without asking permission, Officer Harris walked towards the headboard, opened a compartment within, and upon seeing the guns, removed them.

After securing the firearms, Officer Harris ran Reynolds' name through dispatch and discovered that one month prior, she had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for psychological evaluation. As a result of the statutory prohibition of her possession, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4), the officers seized the weapons over Reynolds' protests and left. At no time was Reynolds placed under arrest, handcuffed, or physically searched. On December 11, 2007, a grand jury indicted Reynolds on the two firearm charges.

B. The Proceedings Below

Reynolds' claims on appeal implicate various proceedings that occurred in the district court, which we detail here as relevant.

1. First Competency Hearing

Following a series of missteps by Reynolds after her arrest and arraignment, including repeated violations of her conditions of release, subsequent re-arrests, and her failure to appear at a motions hearing, the government moved pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241 to determine whether Reynolds was competent to stand trial. Reynolds' counsel at the time assented to the government's motion. The magistrate judge granted the motion and, at defense counsel's request, ordered Dr. Diane Tennies to evaluate Reynolds and to file a report with the court.

Dr. Tennies' report concluded that although Reynolds could understand the nature of the criminal proceedings, she was unlikely to make informed decisions necessary to assist properly in her defense. She explained, however, that Reynolds' background indicated that Reynolds “stabilizes quickly” when properly treated. The magistrate judge reviewed Dr. Tennies' report and held a hearing during which both Dr. Tennies and Reynolds testified. Based on this information, the judge recommended that the district court find Reynolds incompetent to proceed to trial at the present time, but that she could become competent in the near future with proper treatment. Neither party filed any objections. On July 30, 2008, the district court accepted the recommended decision and ordered Reynolds committed to a suitable facility for hospitalization pending further assessment. Reynolds' commitment was to the Federal Medical Center, Carswell (“Carswell”) located in Fort Worth, Texas.

2. Second Competency Hearing

On February 2, 2009, the district court received a letter from the Carswell warden accompanied by a report written by forensic psychologist Dr. Leslie Powers and reviewed by chief psychologist Dr. Robert Gregg, which concluded that Reynolds' competence was restored. Specifically, the report explained that Reynolds had “a good understanding of the role and function of ... the Judge, jury, prosecution, her attorney, and witnesses,” that she “accurately described the different plea options,” that Reynolds believed “that her attorney was working in her best interest,” and that she could ask “for clarification if she did not understand something her attorney was saying or something said in the Courtroom.” In view of the report, the district court ordered a second competency hearing. Counsel attended a conference with the court prior to the hearing, wherein defense counsel stated that he had met with Reynolds several times and that she was “in good shape.” He explained that he would not be contesting competence.

The district court began the hearing by asking Reynolds several questions to assess her demeanor and presentation and to determine whether she was competent. Reynolds explained to the court that she understood “exactly” the proceedings being held, and she stated that she and her lawyer had discussed the issues involved, which defense counsel confirmed. Throughout the hearing, the court continued to check Reynolds' understanding of the proceedings, and each time, Reynolds assured the court that she followed. She conferred with defense counsel several times and expressed her wish to exercise her right to allocute.

During her allocution, Reynolds stated that she was mistreated by both personnel and fellow patients while in custody, and that her problems were physical and not psychological. Reynolds then proceeded to discuss the circumstances surrounding the charges. Both defense counsel and the court interrupted Reynolds to tell her that she “shouldn't talk about the case,” to which Reynolds responded, “Why? ... I don't have anything to hide.” Defense counsel conferred with Reynolds and then explained on record that anything Reynolds said “could ultimately be counterproductive,” but Reynolds continued.

Reynolds stated that she removed two firearms from her mother's house because a neighbor, who was a felon, had put them there “and the serial numbers were scratched off of them.” She said that she was intending to take the weapons to the police station but that one of her roommates learned of the guns and called the sheriff's department. Reynolds explained that a police officer then came into her room without knocking and asked if she had guns, to which she responded affirmatively, showing them to him. Reynolds said that the officer took the guns and arrested her. Reynolds stated that she did not see how she broke the law since she was helping her mother.

When Reynolds finished speaking, the district court accepted the Carswell forensic report without objection. It then stated that, in view of the report and its observations of Reynolds during the hearing, Reynolds was competent to stand trial. Specifically, it stated that Reynolds had “sufficient present ability to consult with her attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding,” and that she had a “rational, as well as factual, understanding not only of the proceedings against her, but also the possible consequences of the proceedings.” Although the court found that Reynolds would continue to be competent in the future, it stated that it would “remain vigilant regarding that issue.” Neither party objected.

3. Motion to Suppress

Prior to her first competency hearing, Reynolds filed a motion to suppress the firearms seized from her bedroom. Because of Reynolds' competency concerns, however, a decision on the motion was delayed. After the district court found Reynolds competent to face the charges against her, it rescheduled a motion hearing.

In her suppression motion, Reynolds argued that she had not consented to the search of her headboard. Specifically, she contended that when Officer Harris asked whether she had any firearms, she understood his question to concern only the existence of the weapons, and she did not know that the officer intended to search for and seize them. The government argued that Reynolds gave consent for the search and that her consent was voluntary.

At the motion hearing, Officer Harris was the only witness; defense counsel stated that he reviewed with Reynolds her right to testify, but that she chose to “follow[ ] [his] advice” and not take the stand. The court then asked the parties whether they wished to file supplemental memoranda before the court ruled on the motion. Neither party offered additional materials nor suggested that the court incorporate evidence admitted during the competency hearings into the suppression proceedings.

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