Before acquittal or conviction, a defendant's mental condition is relevant to two issues. One is competence to stand trial -- i.e., whether he is able to "understand the proceedings against him or properly to assist in his own defense."7 For this purpose, the inquiry is focused on present mental condition, namely, at the time of trial. The other is criminal responsibility -- i.e., whether the act charged, if committed, was the product of mental disease or defect.8 For this purpose, the inquiry is focused on past mental condition, namely, at the time of the offense. Even though a defendant may not be suffering from an abnormal mental condition at the time of trial, his mental condition at the time of the offense may require his acquittal by reason of insanity.9
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
Date Decided: February 16, 1968; As Amended May 6, 1968.
Petition for Rehearing En Banc Denied July 12, 1968.
Bazelon, Chief Judge, and Edgerton, Senior Circuit Judge, and Robinson, Circuit Judge.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BAZELON
In this appeal from denial of habeas corpus, appellant attacks the mandatory commitment provisions of D.C.Code § 24-301(d) [hereinafter Subsection (d)]1 and the release provisions of D.C.Code § 24-301(e)2 These provisions apply after a successful voluntary plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The primary contention is that these provisions violate equal protection because they do not afford safeguards available for those civilly committed under the Hospitalization of the Mentally Ill Act of 1964.3
Gerald C. Bolton was charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle4 and transportation of a stolen motor vehicle5 in June 1965. At trial in August 1966 defense counsel stipulated to the facts concerning the alleged offense and relied solely on a plea of insanity. The only witness at the trial was Dr. George Weichardt, a psychiatrist on the staff of Saint Elizabeths Hospital. He gave this interesting account of appellant's early history.
Mr. Bolton was originally admitted to St. Elizabeths Hospital at the age of approximately 16 years -- that was in 1949. The hospital records show that his mother complained that he refused to bathe, that he preferred to stay in the house all the time, that he wanted all the window shades pulled down, and that he became so unruly at home that she took him to D.C. General Hospital and from there he was transferred to St. Elizabeths. He remained on the rolls of St. Elizabeths Hospital up until 1957.
I might say that during that time it came out that Mr. Bolton had a peculiar fascination with automobiles and that on several occasions he left the hospital without permission.
In 1951 he left the hospital without permission and it was said when he returned that he had been involved in difficulty with an automobile.
In 1952 he left the hospital again without permission and took an automobile to Georgia and then to New York. He was hospitalized then at Bellvue [sic] Hospital in New York City, and later at the Pilgrim State Hospital in New York state.
He eventually returned to the hospital. He made several more visits away from the hospital without permission.
Finally in 1957 he eloped from the hospital and at that time the record shows that he was arrested in Florida for theft of an automobile. Since he was civilly committed to the hospital the hospital had no way to get him back and he was ...