United States District Court, C.D. California
ORDER ACCEPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF
CORMAC J. CARNEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Court has reviewed the First
Amended Petition (“FAP”), the Magistrate
Judge’s Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”), Petitioner’s Objections to the
R&R, and the remaining record, and has made a de
Objections generally reiterate the arguments made in the FAP
and Petitioner’s supporting memorandum, and lack merit
for the reasons set forth in the R&R. There is one issue,
however, that warrants brief amplification here.
Objections, Petitioner contends that the Magistrate Judge did
not give sufficient weight to evidence of Petitioner’s
alleged incompetence, namely, a pretrial psychological report
prepared by Dr. Vianne Castellano. (Objections at 12-16.) Dr.
Castellano “concluded that Petitioner was among other
things dissociating and hallucinating.” (Id.
at 16.) Making a leap, Petitioner conclusorily asserts that
Dr. Castellano’s findings “mandated competency
proceedings.” (Id. at 14.)
general matter, when reviewing a procedural incompetence
claim, the Court considers whether the trial judge was
presented with “substantial evidence” of
incompetence, i.e., substantial evidence that the
petitioner was unable to meaningfully consult with his
lawyer, or lacked a rational or factual understanding of the
proceedings against him. Davis v. Woodford, 384 F.3d
628, 644-45 (9th Cir. 2003).
Petitioner has presented evidence that Petitioner was
mentally ill at the time of Dr. Castellano’s
“mental illness does not necessarily equate to
incompetence.” Grant v. Brown, 312 F.
App’x 71, 73 (9th Cir. 2009); see also Boyde v.
Brown, 404 F.3d 1159, 1166 (9th Cir. 2005) (concluding
that “major depression” and “paranoid
delusions” do not necessarily raise a doubt regarding a
defendant’s incompetence). While Petitioner may have
suffered from delusions at the time of Dr. Castellano’s
evaluation, the record contains no evidence of delusional
thinking that would have prevented Petitioner from
meaningfully consulting with his attorney, or understanding
the proceedings against him. Compare Torres v.
Prunty, 223 F.3d 1103, 1109 (9th Cir. 2000) (finding
that competency hearing was required where petitioner
believed his trial attorney was part of greater conspiracy
against him). Nor does Petitioner identify any evidence that
he behaved irrationally or erratically during his trial.
See Boag v. Raines, 769 F.2d 1341, 1343 (9th Cir.
1985) (“In cases finding sufficient evidence of
incompetency, the petitioners have been able to show either
extremely erratic and irrational behavior during the course
of the trial, or lengthy histories of acute psychosis and
psychiatric treatment.” (citations omitted)). To the
contrary, as the Magistrate Judge observed, the record
reflects several lucid and intelligent exchanges between the
trial court and Petitioner. (Reporter’s Transcript at
7, 8, 12.) Likewise, during his trial testimony, Petitioner
responded coherently and appropriately to the questions posed
by his counsel. (See Id. at 104-10); see also
United States v. Garza, 751 F.3d 1130, 1136 (9th Cir.
2014) (“Even a mentally deranged defendant is out of
luck if there is no indication that he failed to understand
or assist in his criminal proceedings.”).
the Court finds that the trial judge was not presented with
“substantial evidence” of Petitioner’s
incompetence. See Davis, 384 F.3d at 646 (while
petitioner may have been depressed, his history, statements
and conduct did not approach the “overwhelming
indications of incompetence” present in case law
establishing the sua sponte duty to hold a
such, Petitioner has failed to meet his burden of showing
that there was no reasonable basis for the California Supreme
Court to deny his procedural incompetence claim. See
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011).
IT IS ORDERED THAT:
Report and Recommendation is approved and accepted;
Judgment be entered denying the First Amended Petition and