The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rhoades, District Judge
18 U.S.C. § 4241 provides that prior to the sentencing of a
defendant, the court shall order a competency hearing "if there is
reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering
from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the
extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the
proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense."
18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). In an order filed November 20, 2001, the court
concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that defendant might
be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him incompetent to
stand trial. Accordingly, the court ordered a mental competency
evaluation in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b) and subsequently
held a hearing in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 4241(c) and 4247(d). On
February 19, 2002, the court found defendant to be incompetent to stand
trial and therefore committed defendant to the custody of the Attorney
General in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d), which provides that,
if the defendant is determined to be incompetent, the court shall commit
the defendant to the custody of the Attorney General for a reasonable
period of time, not to exceed four months, in order to determine whether
"there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future the
defendant will attain the capacity to permit the trial to proceed."
18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(1). Defendant was placed at the U.S. Medical
Center for Federal Prisoners ("USMC-Springfield") in Springfield,
At the end of the four month period, the government filed a motion to
allow defendant's continued hospitalization pursuant to
18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(2), which provides that the defendant may be
hospitalized for an additional reasonable period of time until "his
mental condition is so improved that the trial may proceed, if the court
finds that there is a substantial probability that within such additional
period of time he will attain the capacity to permit the trial to
proceed." In an order filed July 31, 2002, the court extended defendant's
period of custody until November 27, 2002. in an order filed September
11, 2002, the court posed various questions to medical staff at
Springfield regarding defendant's treatment and requested a response to
those questions on or before September 20, 2002.
In a letter to the court dated September 19, 2002, the court was
informed that it was the belief of the USMC-Springfield clinical staff
that defendant is competent to stand trial. Then, without a court order,
USMC-Springfield sent defendant back to San Diego, where he is currently
confined at the Metropolitan Correctional Complex ("MCC").
The court held a hearing on September 30, 2002 pursuant to
18 U.S.C. § 4241(c) to determine defendant's competence. At the
hearing, the parties stipulated to defendant's incompetence despite the
certificate of competency filed by USMC-Springfield. The court agreed
with the parties that unless defendant is forcibly medicated, he is
incompetent to stand trial. The court also informed the parties that it
will not order defendant's continued forcible medication. Thus, the court
determined that defendant is incompetent to stand trial.
The first step of the procedure is that there must be a certification
that the pretrial "detainee is presently suffering from a mental disease
or defect as a result of which his release would create a substantial
risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to property of
another . . . ." 18 U.S.C. § 4246(a). This certification is to be made
by "the director of a facility in which a person is hospitalized . . . ."
18 U.S.C. § 4246(a). The court must then hold a hearing. See
18 U.S.C. § 4246(c). "If, after the hearing, the court finds by clear
and convincing evidence that the person is presently suffering from a
mental disease or defect as a result of which his release would create a
substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to
property of another, the court shall commit the person to the custody of
the Attorney General." 18 U.S.C. § 4246(d).
This issue of the applicability of § 4246 arises because there is
ample evidence in the record to suggest that defendant will present a
danger to society if he is released, yet there is some question about
whether defendant is "hospitalized" within the meaning of § 4246
and, if not, whether this fact precludes USMC-Springfield from providing
a dangerousness certification under § 4246.
The evidence in the record suggests that, if given the opportunity,
USMC-Springfield might certify defendant as dangerous within the meaning
of § 4246, as there is substantial evidence of violent behavior on
defendant's part. For example, defendant himself reported to
USMC-Springfield clinical staff that he committed a homicide for which he
spent 12 years in prison. See February 6, 2002 report of Dr. Kalish, pp.
2, 3. While at USMC-Springfield, defendant threatened USMC-Springfield
staff with violence and actually assaulted a USMC-Springfield staff
member and another inmate. See Involuntary Medication Hearing Appeal
Response p. 4, attached to July 12, 2002 Letter from Bill Hedrick, Warden
of USMC-Springfield. Moreover, Dr. Frederick has opined that "Mr.
Trillo-Cerda presents a serious risk of injury to others and is at risk
for significant property damage as the result of mental disorder were he
to be released from custody." See September 19, 2002 Forensic Report p.
9, attached to September 19, 2002 Letter from Bill Hedrick, Warden of
USMC-Springfield. Nonetheless, despite this evidence of dangerousness,
there is some question as to whether the certification can be made given
that defendant is not currently physically confined at USMC-Springfield.
18 U.S.C. § 4241(e) provides that "[w]hen the director of the
facility in which a defendant is hospitalized pursuant to subsection (d)
determines that the defendant has recovered to such an extent that he is
able to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against
him and to assist properly in his defense, he shall promptly file a
certificate to that effect with the clerk of the court that ordered the
commitment." Here, in conjunction with a certification made pursuant to
§ 4241(e), USMC-Springfield returned defendant to this jurisdiction.
It is unclear whether USMC-Springfield intended to officially discharge
defendant or whether it simply returned him to this district for the
purpose of allowing defendant to participate in the competency
proceeding. As a preliminary matter, it is questionable whether
USMC-Springfield could discharge defendant without a court order.
The court notes that § 4241(e) provides that "[i]f; after the hearing,
the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant has
recovered to such an extent that he is able to understand the nature and
consequences of the proceedings against him and to assist properly in his
defense, the court shall order his immediate discharge from the facility
in which he is hospitalized and shall set the date for trial." However,
"at the end of the time period specified, it is determined that the
defendant's mental condition has not so improved as to permit the trial
to proceed, the defendant is subject to the provisions of section 4246."
18 U.S.C. § 4241(d). Based upon these two provisions of § 4241,
it would appear that USMC-Springfield could not ...