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United States v. Stewart

July 3, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANTHONY STEWART, APPELLANT



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey D.C. Criminal No. 04-cr-772 (Honorable William H. Walls).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yohn, District Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued April 26, 2006

Before: SCIRICA, Chief Judge, NYGAARD, Circuit Judge, and YOHN*fn1, District Judge.

OPINION OF THE COURT

In 2004, Anthony Stewart was found not guilty by reason of insanity for randomly stabbing a post-office customer in Harrison, New Jersey. At a subsequent hearing, the District Court committed Stewart to the custody of the United States Attorney General because Stewart failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that his release into the community "would not create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another" under 18 U.S.C. § 4342(e). Stewart appeals, contending that the District Court erred in denying his release. For the reasons stated below, we will affirm.

I.

Born in 1961, Stewart's adult life has been punctuated by a history of psychiatric illness and criminal behavior. Although Stewart obtained a General Education Degree after leaving high school in the eleventh grade, Stewart began to have problems with the law at the age of twenty when he was convicted in state court of possession of stolen property. The record reflects that Stewart's mental health also began to deteriorate in his twenties, resulting in several psychiatric hospitalizations for schizophrenia. These problems corresponded with a gradual escalation in Stewart's criminal behavior, from shoplifting and resisting arrest to larceny and burglary. Although Stewart received antipsychotic medication while hospitalized or incarcerated, Stewart typically did not comply with his medication regimen postrelease.

A. The Underlying Offense & Criminal Trial

On April 29, 1999, Stewart was in a Harrison, New Jersey post office when he randomly approached customer Elizabeth Higgins from behind and stabbed her in the back of the head with a Leatherman blade. Stewart then calmly turned around and walked out. Higgins suffered a 10-centimeter laceration to the lower back of her head. Stewart was apprehended that same day a short distance from the post office.

Stewart was initially charged in Hudson County Superior Court and detained at various facilities for over a year. He was transferred to federal custody on June 12, 2000, and charged with knowingly committing an assault resulting in serious bodily injury within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(6) and 2. Stewart was temporarily committed for a mental health evaluation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b).*fn2 Evaluations by mental health professionals concluded that Stewart was not competent to stand trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d). As a result, Stewart was committed to the Attorney General's custody on January 17, 2001 pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(1).*fn3

After approximately six months of treatment at Federal Medical Center ("FMC") Devens in Massachusetts, Stewart was evaluated by Thomas Patenaude, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist at FMC Devens. In accordance with that evaluation, on September 4, 2001, Stewart was found competent to stand trial. However, Stewart was released to Passaic County Jail, where his mental state again deteriorated. In February 2002, Stewart was determined to be incompetent to stand trial and recommitted to FMC Devens.

On July 29, 2002, the Court ordered a psychiatric examination to determine whether Stewart suffered from mental illness at the time of the April 1999 offense pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4242.*fn4 Dr. Patenaude and Dr. Catherine M. Barber, Stewart's retained psychologist, both concluded with a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that at the time of the offense Stewart was suffering from severe mental disease and, as a result, was unable to appreciate the nature, quality, and wrongfulness of his actions. On October 24, 2004, a stipulated ...


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