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In re R.V.

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division

June 19, 2013

In re R.V., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
R.V., Defendant and Appellant.

Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County, No. DL034139, Deborah C. Servino, Judge. Judgment affirmed.

Cindy Brines, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Melissa Mandel and Kathryn Kirschbaum, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

IKOLA, J.

A Welfare and Institutions Code section 602[1] petition alleged that minor R.V. brandished a weapon and vandalized property. Minor’s counsel questioned minor’s competence to stand trial. The court suspended the proceedings, appointed an evaluator, held a competency hearing, and found minor failed to meet his burden to prove his incompetence. The court then reinstated the proceedings, found true the petition’s allegations, and granted probation to minor. On appeal minor contends the court erred by requiring him to prove his incompetence and, alternatively, that no substantial evidence supports the court’s finding he failed to meet his burden of proof on the issue. For the reasons discussed herein, we affirm the judgment.

FACTS

On the morning of March 9, 2012, minor woke up angry and told his stepfather he was sick and did not want to go to school. Minor threw containers and clothing around the bedroom. The stepfather told minor he would miss the bus. Minor clenched his fists and said, “I’m going to fuck you up.” Minor pulled out a small silver knife from his pocket and told the stepfather, “I will kill you if you call the police.”

The owner of the house came in and saw minor kick a DVD player and argue with his stepfather in the living room. The owner told minor to calm down. Minor said, “I’ll kill you too.” Minor went in his bedroom and stabbed the bed at least three times with the knife.

Minor’s mother saw him throw a small television onto the living room floor. The mother followed him into the bedroom. Minor yelled, “I want a house, I want my own space.” He had a small silver knife and told his mother, “Don’t come close to me. I have a knife.”

The stepfather told police that minor has mental problems and is getting worse, and that the stepfather feared for his own and his daughter’s safety. The mother said minor has psychological problems and had not taken his prescribed medication for the past four weeks.

A section 602 petition alleged minor committed two counts of misdemeanor brandishing a deadly weapon (Pen. Code, § 417, subd. (a)(1)) and misdemeanor vandalism causing property damage of under $400 (Pen. Code, § 594, subds. (a) & (b)(2)(A)).

Pursuant to section 709, minor’s counsel declared a doubt, based on minor’s cognitive deficits, as to his competency to stand trial and to assist in his defense. The court suspended proceedings, set a competency determination hearing, and appointed Dr. Haig Kojian to perform a section 709 evaluation.

In Dr. Kojian’s confidential report assessing minor’s competence, the psychologist observed that minor appeared to be impaired, with limited thinking, slow speech, and an altered thought process. But because minor refused to take any tests, Dr. Kojian was unable “to assess him with objective measures used to determine IQ, academic functioning, personality, organic functioning, etc.” Dr. Kojian stated minor presented as being depressed. Minor had apparently been treated for mood instability (such as with the medications, Celexa and Abilify), and “for unknown reasons his cognition and thinking are, clearly, disrupted.” Dr. Kojian opined minor was incompetent to stand trial, was legitimately confused about what was occurring, and lacked the capacity to meaningfully or rationally cooperate with counsel in the preparation of a defense, or to assist counsel in a meaningful or rational manner.

At the competency hearing, Dr. Kojian testified as follows. There are many tests available to assess a person’s cognitive functioning. But even if Dr. Kojian had been able to administer tests to minor, this would not have changed the psychologist’s opinion that minor was incompetent under the legal standard. Minor’s thinking seemed impaired and his affect was inappropriate. Minor did not appear to be malingering. Minor’s mother and stepfather, his teachers, and a police officer all thought minor was confused or impaired. On cross-examination, Dr. Kojian testified minor “was very slow and deliberate in his speech and movements. He ...


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