United States v. Taylor, No. 13937.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtHAYNSWORTH, , and SOBELOFF and BRYAN, Circuit
Citation437 F.2d 371
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Isaac J. TAYLOR, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 13937.
Decision Date20 January 1971

437 F.2d 371 (1971)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,
v.
Isaac J. TAYLOR, Appellant.

No. 13937.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued March 3, 1970.

Decided January 20, 1971.


437 F.2d 372
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437 F.2d 373
Donald M. Haddock, Alexandria, Va., (Court-appointed counsel), for appellant

Michael G. Kelly, Atty., Department of Justice (Brian P. Gettings, U. S. Atty., on the brief), for appellee.

Before HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge, and SOBELOFF and BRYAN, Circuit Judges.

HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge:

On appeal from his conviction for assault with a deadly weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(c) Isaac Taylor raises numerous questions relating to the procedures followed in the district court after he was reported to be suffering from a mental disturbance. While we find the record adequate to support the determination that he was competent to stand trial, we agree that the denial by the district court of his pre-trial motion for expert psychiatric assistance deprived him of an adequate opportunity to determine the possible existence of a substantial defense of insanity. We remand the case for further proceedings to permit counsel to have assistance in determining whether such a defense may exist.

According to motions filed by defense counsel and uncontested by the government Taylor has an extensive history of mental disturbance. He has been admitted to St. Elizabeths in Washington, D. C. on four occasions, most recently from September 21 to November 21, 1967. He has a history of violence and impulsive action over a period of more than ten years.

In 1968 Taylor was tried for armed robbery in the District of Columbia. His sole defense was insanity. Testimony was elicited that he was "psychotic," had "paranoid thinking," was extremely impulsive and lacked sufficient internal controls. The jury rejected the defense and returned a verdict of guilty, in consequence of which Taylor was sentenced to imprisonment for fifteen years.

At the Lorton Reformatory in Lorton, Virginia, where he was sent to serve his sentence, Taylor was kept under maximum security conditions. The prosecution in this case arises from an occurrence at Lorton during which, the government alleges, Taylor turned on another man and assaulted him with a metal mop wringer.

On January 2, 1969, Taylor's attorney filed a motion for a mental examination pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4244.1 The motion

437 F.2d 374
recited the history noted above, pointed out that the charged "crime is of a violent and impulsive nature and apparently without rational motive,"2 and added that "the Defendant himself desires and feels the need for mental therapy." The motion did not allege or suggest that counsel had any cause to believe that Taylor's understanding of the proceedings was in any way deficient or that he had any difficulties in communicating with counsel or in assisting in his defense. Although the motion referred to § 4244, which is directed principally to examinations to determine competence to stand trial, it is inferable from the facts alleged that counsel was concerned primarily, if not exclusively, with an attempt to obtain expert psychiatric opinion to assist him in preparing a defense to the charge based on insanity

In response to the motion the district judge ordered that within five days Taylor be examined by a St. Elizabeths' psychiatrist to determine whether a full commitment would be required. For reasons not explained in the record the examination was delayed until February 27, on which date two psychiatrists interviewed Taylor at the District of Columbia jail. One of them, Dr. Platkin, Taylor recognized from previous experience at St. Elizabeths. The interview began without incident. For a few minutes Taylor conversed normally about his confinement at Lorton and discussed the attack which resulted in his prosecution. When the conversation turned to his motivations for such conduct, he was unable to ascribe reasons for his behavior, indicating that when he became angry at someone he would attack him. He could not explain why his reactions to real or imagined provocation were so violent.

Turning from his own conduct, Taylor began to accuse Dr. Platkin of having done nothing to help him during his earlier stay at St. Elizabeths. He then refused to speak further to either psychiatrist because, he said, no one at the hospital had helped him in the past. By way of emphasis to his refusal he approached Dr. Platkin and threatened to "choke the life out of" him. At this point the interview was terminated, having lasted ten minutes altogether.

On the same day the two psychiatrists filed their report, describing the interview and stating their conclusions as follows:

"Though the interview was quite brief and we do not pretend to offer a complete evaluation it is clear that Mr. Taylor fully understands the nature of his charges. There is obviously no memory deficit and Mr. Taylor appears able to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his defense. In view of Mr. Taylor\'s own statement that he was fully aware of the nature of his attack on October 12, 1968, and that the attack occurred because he was angry at the person on whom he had made the attack, there is no indication from our present examination that he lacked the requisite competency to commit a crime on that date."

The district judge accepted the report and required no further examination. However, the trial, begun as scheduled on March 3, was not completed. During the testimony of one of the witnesses Taylor suddenly attacked him with a chair.3 A mistrial was declared and a new trial date set.

437 F.2d 375

On September 9, 1969, before a different judge, defense counsel presented a new motion. In it he alleged substantially the same facts as he had in the January 2 motion, asserted that the February 27 interview was inadequate, and invoked 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(e)4 in support of his request that the court furnish "authority and funds to employ a private psychiatrist to inquire into the Defendant's mental condition and competency both to stand trial and at the time of the alleged offense." The motion was denied at that time and on September 12. The trial proceeded without an insanity defense, and Taylor was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for five years, to be served consecutively with his previous sentence.

Although the motions to the trial court, as well as the arguments on appeal, are couched primarily in language suggesting a question of Taylor's competence to stand trial, we think the suggestion focuses on the wrong aspect of the problem. The real issue here is whether, in light of his history as revealed by the factual allegations of the motions, he was afforded a sufficient opportunity to develop a defense of lack of criminal responsibility for his conduct.

Whether a person charged with crime is mentally competent to stand trial is a discrete question, governed by different medical and legal standards from the question of mental responsibility. To be competent to stand trial a defendant must have, at the time of his trial, "sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of understanding — and * * * a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."5 A claim that the defendant was not criminally responsible, on the other hand, is unconcerned with the defendant's understanding of his situation at the time of trial, but is directed entirely to his capacity to understand and to control his conduct at the time of the commission of the offense. The test as applied in this Circuit is whether "at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial

437 F.2d 376
capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law."6 That a defendant may have exhibited such an absence of capacity to control his conduct as to indicate the possibility of a defense of insanity does not, of itself, answer the wholly different question of whether his understanding is presently so limited as to require that he not be tried at all. The one question may have little or no bearing upon the other, for many defendants who may not be held criminally responsible for their unlawful acts are clearly competent to stand trial

In this case neither the facts alleged in the pretrial motions nor the defendant's conduct gave any indication that he might be incompetent to stand trial. The motions did not allege that his attorney had ever experienced any difficulty in communication or that Taylor had on any occasion exhibited an impaired understanding of the proceedings or of the charges against him. On the contrary, the allegations point to Taylor's acute awareness of his situation. They indicate that he realized the nature of his conduct and the fact that it was highly aberrational. His recognition of his need and desire for psychiatric assistance in controlling his behavior is explicit. All of this suggests the existence of mental disorder, to be sure, but hardly a disorder of the sort that renders a defendant incompetent to be tried.

During the brief psychiatric interview following the first motion, he discussed his conduct rationally until the outburst which occasioned the examination's end, and that outburst carried with it no strong indication of an incapacity to cooperate with a lawyer for whom Taylor had no basis for a prior sense of resentment. If we assume that the initial motion required an examination into the defendant's competence to stand trial, we find the interview that was conducted to have been sufficient for that purpose, and the court properly ordered the case to trial.

There was no need for a subsequent examination of the defendant's competence to stand trial. The second motion recited essentially the same facts as its predecessor; only a contention that the first examination was deficient was added....

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77 practice notes
  • Alvord v. Wainwright, 83-3345
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • February 10, 1984
    ...were insufficient to allow the trial judge accurately to rule on his competency to stand trial. Alvord relies on United States v. Taylor, 437 F.2d 371 (4th Cir.1970), and Blake v. Zant, 513 F.Supp. 772 (S.D.Ga.1981) (appeal docketed 5/13/81), and calls our attention to Judge Sobeloff's opin......
  • U.S. v. Ives, 73-1726
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 9, 1974
    ...incentive. We find further support for our holding in United States v. Marshall, 458 F.2d 446 (2d Cir. 1972), and United States v. Taylor, 437 F.2d 371 (4th Cir. 1971). In Marshall Guglielmo, one of the defendants, sought a reversal of his conviction on the ground that his own obstreperous ......
  • Gray v. District Court of Eleventh Judicial Dist., 94SA109
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • October 11, 1994
    ...a lawyer inexpert in the science of psychiatry to probe intelligently the foundations of adverse testimony. United States v. Taylor, 437 F.2d 371, 377 n. 9 (4th Cir.1971); see also Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68, 105 S.Ct. 1087, 84 L.Ed.2d 53 (1985) (state must provide funds for a psychiatric......
  • United States ex rel. Edney v. Smith, 76-C-1289.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • November 24, 1976
    ...the specialists to be consulted, and the areas to be explored on cross-examination of opposing psychiatrists." United States v. Taylor, 437 F.2d 371, 377 n. 9 (4th Cir. 1971) (citations Prior to the adoption of the Federal Rules of Evidence parallel considerations led the Court of Appeals f......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
73 cases
  • U.S. v. Ives, No. 73-1726
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 9, 1974
    ...incentive. We find further support for our holding in United States v. Marshall, 458 F.2d 446 (2d Cir. 1972), and United States v. Taylor, 437 F.2d 371 (4th Cir. 1971). In Marshall Guglielmo, one of the defendants, sought a reversal of his conviction on the ground that his own obstreperous ......
  • People v. Lightsey, No. S048440.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 9, 2012
    ...U.S. (9th Cir.1969) 414 F.2d 258, 259, citing Meador v. U.S. (9th Cir.1964) 332 F.2d 935, 938–939; see also U.S. v. Taylor (4th Cir.1971) 437 F.2d 371, 382, fn. 3 [listing cases distinguishing between direct appeals and collateral review]; but see U.S. v. Makris (5th Cir.1973) 483 F.2d 1082......
  • People v. Lightsey, No. S048440.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 9, 2012
    ...U.S. (9th Cir.1969) 414 F.2d 258, 259, citing Meador v. U.S. (9th Cir.1964) 332 F.2d 935, 938–939; see also U.S. v. Taylor (4th Cir.1971) 437 F.2d 371, 382, fn. 3 [listing cases distinguishing between direct appeals and collateral review]; but see U.S. v. Makris (5th Cir.1973) 483 F.2d 1082......
  • State v. Carter, No. 63653
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • August 31, 1982
    ...a lawyer inexpert in the science of psychiatry to probe intelligently the foundations of adverse testimony." United States v. Taylor, 437 F.2d 371, 377 n. 9 (4th Id. at 423-24. Section 491.060(3), RSMo 1978, declares the common law rule; it neither limits nor diminishes the attorney-client ......
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