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United States v. Figueroa

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 20, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMIE FIGUEROA

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANT'S COMPETENCY TO STAND TRIAL

          Judith Gail Dein, United States Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation on the defendant's competency to stand trial. For the reasons detailed herein, this Court recommends to the District Judge to whom this case is assigned that the defendant be committed for further evaluation and treatment for restoration of competency pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d).

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The defendant, Jamie Figueroa, is under indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On April 18, 2018, defense counsel filed an assented-to motion requesting that the Court order a psychiatric evaluation of the defendant pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241. The motion was allowed on April 23, 2018 (Docket No. 27), and an amended order authorizing the examination was entered by this Court on May 4, 2018. (Docket No. 30). The defendant was referred to the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Devens, where he was evaluated during the period of June 7, 2018 through July 7, 2018. On August 10, 2018, a report was issued by Chad Tillbrook, PhD, a forensic psychologist at FMC Devens. (Sealed Docket No. 53). As described further below, Dr. Tillbrook recommended that Mr. Figueroa be committed for further evaluation and treatment for restoration of his competency pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d).

         The defendant thereafter requested the opportunity to have an independent psychiatric examination conducted. An independent examination was conducted by Robert H. Joss, PhD, a forensic psychologist, on September 24, 2018. In a report dated November 6, 2018, Dr. Joss reached a contrary conclusion to that expressed by Dr. Tillbrook.

         An evidentiary hearing was held before this Court on November 13, 2018. That morning, the defendant refused to come to court, and this Court declined to order that the defendant be forcibly brought to the courtroom. The Court did permit the hearing to go forward, over defense counsel's objection, so that the government could present the testimony of Dr. Tillbrook, who had travelled from out of state for the hearing.

         Dr. Tillbrook testified at the evidentiary hearing, and was cross-examined by defense counsel. At the conclusion of this testimony, the hearing was continued so that defense counsel could consult with the defendant. Although Dr. Joss was present in the courtroom, the defense did not call him as a witness, electing to await consultation with Mr. Figueroa and to assess whether Dr. Joss' opinion remained unchanged in light of the defendant's decision not to participate in the court proceedings.

         On November 15, 2018, the defendant filed a status report notifying the Court that Mr. Figueroa would not be presenting any evidence and asking “that the Court rule on the question of competency based on the testimony and evidence already received.”[1] (Docket No. 68). This Report and Recommendation follows.

         ANALYSIS

         Dr. Tillbrook testified consistently with his detailed report of August 10, 2018. Specifically, but without limitation, Dr. Tillbrook testified that Mr. Figueroa had been previously diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, Bipolar II Disorder, Bipolar I Disorder with Psychotic Features, and Schizophrenia. Dr. Tillbrook determined that the defendant is presently suffering from Schizophrenia. As he concluded in his report:

Mr. Figueroa has an adequate factual understanding of the courtroom proceedings. However, due to his psychiatric illness, the defendant has substantial impairment in making rational decisions pertinent to the adjudication of his case. His disorganized thinking and delusional beliefs produce significant deficits in his ability to participate rationally with his attorney in the preparation and implementation of his defense.

(Docket No. 53 at 12).

         “To be found competent, a defendant must have both ‘sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding' and ‘a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.'” United States v. Reynolds, 646 F.3d 63, 70 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960)). See also 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a) (a hearing on mental competency may be held to determine if the defendant is “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.”). This Court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to ...


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