Friday, April 12, 2013

Denial of Competency Hearing Not An Abuse of Discretion; Drug Convictions Affirmed

U.S. v. Patterson, 2013 WL 1365720 (4/5/13) (Kan.) (Published) - The d. ct. did not abuse its discretion when it denied the defense attorney's request for a competency hearing [regarding the defendant's competence, not the attorney's]. The allegation in d.ct. that the defendant had trouble paying attention for long periods of time and had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and the allegation on appeal that the defendant had Asperger's Syndrome or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder [I'm glad to see appellate attorneys may now diagnose mental illness] did not require a hearing. The d. ct. based its decision on its observations of the defendant, the successful treatment of the defendant's ADD and the defendant's pro se motion (which was not as good as a lawyer would file, but showed understanding of the issues). Incompetence allegations and OS or OCD are not enough to mandate a hearing.

The d. ct. did not clearly err when it found the coded exchanges in wiretapped conversations established the defendant was involved in a drug conspiracy that was more than just a buyer-seller relationship so that co-conspirator statements were admissible pursuant to the co-conspirator hearsay exception. Those conversations plus co-conspirator and jail-inmate testimony were sufficient to prove guilt of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt. The admission of the co-conspirator statements did not violate Bruton or Crawford. The statements were non-testimonial. There was also no Confrontation Clause issue with the admission of cell phone records pursuant to the business record hearsay exception. The trial judge's statement to the jury that he would be out of town the next week and, if the verdict wasn't reached, another judge would have to take the verdict, did not amount to undue coercion. The judge gave the jurors a choice of whether they wanted to deliberate on a Friday evening or come back on Monday. They voluntarily chose to keep going on Friday. The indictment sufficiently notified the defendant of the charges even though 2 of the conspiracy charges stated the start date was unknown. And it protected the defendant against double jeopardy concerns, given the specificity with which the government identified at trial the conspiracy members and goals.

The 10th refuses to consider a paragraph-long argument which incorporated by reference the argument before the district court. Such argument circumvents the word limits and complicates the task of appellate judges.