United States v. Mitchell, 21-1174

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Citation11 F.4th 668
Docket NumberNo. 21-1174,21-1174
Parties UNITED STATES of America Plaintiff - Appellee v. Johnathan Dewayne MITCHELL Defendant - Appellant
Decision Date25 August 2021

11 F.4th 668

UNITED STATES of America Plaintiff - Appellee
Johnathan Dewayne MITCHELL Defendant - Appellant

No. 21-1174

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

Submitted: June 15, 2021
Filed: August 25, 2021

Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellant and appeared on the brief was Christopher James Nathan, AFPD, of Cedar Rapids, IA.

Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellee and appeared on the brief was Sean R. Berry, AUSA, of Cedar Rapids, IA.

Before LOKEN, KELLY, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

KELLY, Circuit Judge.

Johnathan Mitchell was indicted in April 2016 for Hobbs Act robbery, see 18 U.S.C. § 1951, and is currently detained pending trial. On January 21, 2021, the district court1 ordered that Mitchell—who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder—be involuntarily medicated pursuant to Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166, 123 S.Ct. 2174, 156 L.Ed.2d 197 (2003), to maintain his competency for trial. See id. at 180, 123 S.Ct. 2174 (holding that "involuntary administration of drugs solely for trial competence purposes" is permitted "in certain instances"). We affirm. See United States v. Coy, 991 F.3d 924, 926 (8th Cir. 2021) (noting that we "[h]av[e] jurisdiction over interlocutory appeals of orders for involuntary medication under the collateral order doctrine" (cleaned up)).


Since being detained on the Hobbs Act charge, Mitchell has twice been found incompetent to stand trial. Defense counsel first moved to have Mitchell's competency evaluated in July 2016. The next month, after a 30-day evaluation period, then-Chief Magistrate Judge Jon Stuart Scoles found Mitchell incompetent and committed him to the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) medical facility in Springfield, Missouri, for competency restoration. In September 2017, based on a July 2017 BOP psychologist's report that Mitchell's competency had been restored, the magistrate judge found Mitchell competent to stand trial.

Fewer than two months later, however, defense counsel again moved for an evaluation of Mitchell's competency, reporting that Mitchell had stopped taking his medication and had begun engaging in "unusual behavior." Magistrate Judge Kelly K.E. Mahoney granted the motion. After a 30-day evaluation period, a BOP psychologist opined that Mitchell's time in transit to the BOP medical facility in Butner, North Carolina, contributed to his decompensation.2

11 F.4th 671

In February 2018, the magistrate judge found Mitchell incompetent and committed him for competency restoration at the BOP facility in Butner. Later that year, the court received two reports from Mitchell's psychologist at BOP-Butner—one in July and the other in October—both of which concluded that Mitchell remained incompetent. The latter also opined that Mitchell's level of voluntary compliance with antipsychotic medication was around 50% and that his competency was unlikely to be restored at that rate. In March 2019, the government requested a hearing to determine whether involuntary medication of Mitchell was warranted under Sell.

At the Sell hearing, which did not take place until June 25, 2019, a BOP psychiatrist testified that Mitchell had become 90% compliant with his medications and that this was sufficient to restore his competency. In light of this information, the magistrate judge recommended denying the government's motion to involuntarily medicate Mitchell, finding that it had failed to prove the necessity for doing so. The district court accepted this recommendation in October 2019.

In early December 2019, the magistrate judge received an updated report from a psychologist at BOP-Butner opining that Mitchell was competent and that his continued competence was contingent upon his willingness to take his medications. In the two months leading up to that report, Mitchell's level of voluntary compliance had fallen back down to between 60% and 65%. The magistrate judge thus scheduled a competency hearing for January 2, 2020, and Mitchell was transported from BOP-Butner to the Linn County Jail in Iowa in a single day, on December 18, 2019. At the hearing, the magistrate judge found Mitchell competent based on a November 2019 report from the BOP psychologist. That report did not reflect, however, that Mitchell's voluntary compliance had declined further while at the Linn County Jail: in December 2019 and January 2020, Mitchell took his medications only 20% of the time. As a result, three weeks after finding Mitchell competent, the magistrate judge granted defense counsel's request for another competency evaluation.

Mitchell arrived at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center in Seattle, Washington, on February 6, 2020, for a 30-day evaluation period that was later extended. Though Mitchell's voluntary compliance with medication while at BOP-SeaTac was around 62% and he "presented more stable," Mitchell refused to participate in the evaluation process, so the BOP psychologist could not determine his competency. The psychologist noted that Mitchell still seemed to be experiencing psychotic symptoms, had poor hygiene, "exhibited fluctuating medication compliance," and engaged in hoarding and other "questionable behaviors." On April 17, 2020, based on "the latest report" from BOP-SeaTac "as well as past forensic evaluations," the magistrate judge found Mitchell incompetent to stand trial.

Mitchell returned to BOP-Butner on July 28, 2020, for a third round of competency restoration. His voluntary compliance with medication was 90% in August 2020 and 50% in the first half of September, with an overall compliance rate of 76.6% by September 18, 2020. On October 19, 2020, after holding a competency hearing, the magistrate judge found Mitchell competent to proceed.

That same month, though, the government also filed a second motion for involuntary medication pursuant to Sell. At the

11 F.4th 672

Sell hearing on November 20, 2020, the chief psychiatrist at BOP-Butner, Dr. Logan Graddy, testified that Mitchell would decompensate if he stopped taking his medications, but that he could not identify the precise rate of voluntary compliance necessary to maintain Mitchell's competency. Dr. Graddy also testified that, though Mitchell had...

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2 cases
  • United States v. Busey
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • 25 Agosto 2021
    ...evidence supported the Grade B violation for possession of the firearm, and Thomas's reported statements were largely cumulative and 11 F.4th 668 unnecessary to the finding. See United States v. Montgomery , 896 F.3d 875, 879 (8th Cir. 2018). Miller testified that Hicks told him that she an......
  • People ex rel. Joergensen
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 27 Octubre 2022
    ...if necessary, once 19 restored to competency to avoid decompensation either before or during the trial. United States v. Mitchell, 11 F.4th 668, 674 (8th Cir. 2021). As explained by the court in Mitchell, By focusing solely on the word "render," overlooks an important aspect of the Sell sta......
1 books & journal articles
  • Valuing the Vulnerable: A Proposed Approach to Cyclical Competency.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 87 No. 2, March 2022
    • 22 Marzo 2022
    ...States v. Mitchell, 11 F.4th 668 (8th Cir. The competency evaluation system in the United States is in crisis. (1) The criminal justice system has long recognized that a criminal defendant has a right to a fair trial, and being competent to stand trial is a necessary component of that right......

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