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United States v. No Runner

December 30, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JOURNEY MARIE NO RUNNER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Montana. Sam E. Haddon, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 4:08-cr-00088-SEH-1.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fisher, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted November 3, 2009 -- Portland, Oregon.

Before: Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, Raymond C. Fisher and Richard A. Paez, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Journey Marie No Runner appeals from a pretrial order finding her competent to stand trial. Because a pretrial competency determination is a non-final order and the collateral order doctrine does not apply, we dismiss her appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

BACKGROUND

The government charged No Runner with stealing a sport utility vehicle, driving recklessly and causing an accident that killed one person and injured two others. She faces one count of involuntary manslaughter, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153(a) and 1112, one count of theft, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153(a) and 661, and two counts of assault resulting in serious bodily injury, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153(a) and 113(a)(6).

No Runner pled not guilty, and moved for a psychiatric competency examination under 18 U.S.C. § 4241, arguing that she suffered "traumatic brain injury in the accident" and "has no memory of the events of the Indictment." The district court granted the motion, and Cynthia A. Low, Ph.D., a psychologist, conducted a forensic evaluation of No Runner at the Federal Detention Center in Seatac, Washington. Low acknowledged that No Runner lacked any memory of the events charged in the indictment, but nonetheless concluded that she was competent to stand trial:

Overall, Ms. No Runner demonstrated an average ability to understand the nature and consequences of the court proceedings against her, and an average ability to properly assist counsel in her defense. From the available information, there is no evidence to indicate that Ms. No Runner suffers from a mental disorder that would substantially impair her present ability to understand the nature and consequences of the court proceedings brought against her, or impair her ability to assist counsel in her defense. Although her memory for the events described in the indictment is essentially nonexistent, she is able to consult with her attorney beyond this circumscribed amnesia, and is able to testify in her own behalf.

The district court held a competency hearing. Low, the only witness, testified that No Runner's claimed memory loss was genuine, and that No Runner suffered from post-traumatic amnesiac disorder that deprived her of any memory of the events surrounding the accident. Nonetheless, Low opined that No Runner was competent to stand trial because "she's going to be able to consult and assist with her attorney beyond that very circumscribed memory loss." The district court found No Runner competent to stand trial. No Runner appealed. The district court proceedings have been stayed while this appeal has been pending.

DISCUSSION

On appeal, No Runner contends that we have jurisdiction to review the district court's pretrial competency order under the collateral order doctrine, and that the court erred by finding her competent to stand trial. We conclude that the collateral order doctrine does not apply and that we lack jurisdiction. We therefore do not reach No Runner's contention that the district court's competency determination was in error.

[1] As a general rule, we have jurisdiction to review only "final decisions of the district courts." 28 U.S.C. § 1291. "In criminal cases, this rule ordinarily prohibits appellate review until a defendant is convicted and sentenced." United States v. Friedman, 366 F.3d 975, 978 (9th Cir. 2004). Under the collateral order ...


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