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United States v. Moruzin

October 19, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WAYNE J. MORUZIN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant Wayne J. Moruzin, charged with bank robbery and attempted jury tampering, represented himself in the trial preparation phase of this case, having waived his right to counsel. When his behavior became more implausible, self-defeating, and sometimes bizarre, this Court ordered an evaluation of his mental competency to stand trial, under the authority of 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b), because there was "reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent," under 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). This Court, by Order filed April 7, 2006, ordered a mental competency evaluation.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), which had been holding Moruzin in pretrial detention at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia ("FDC Philadelphia"), transferred him to the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky ("FMC Lexington") for purposes of a competency evaluation by the mental health professionals there.

The evaluation was completed during June and July of 2006, and a comprehensive Forensic Report, dated August 7, 2006 (Ex. G-2) was prepared and forwarded to the Court and provided to counsel. On September 7, 2006, this Court revoked Moruzin's pro se status pending resolution of his mental competence. Also on that day, attorney Mark W. Catanzaro, a member of this Court's Criminal Justice Act Panel, who had served as stand-by counsel during Defendant's self-representation, was appointed as counsel pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act for purposes of representing Moruzin, since representation by counsel is required at a competency hearing, see 18 U.S.C. § 4247(d).*fn1

The hearing was convened on October 5, 2006, at which time the Court heard the testimony of the BOP's Forensic Psychologist, Judith (Betsy) Campbell, Ph.D., who authored the final report. (Ex. G-2.) Various exhibits were also received into evidence, including detailed testing results (Exs. G-3A & 3B) and eight letters written by Mr. Moruzin from his confinement before, during, and after the competency evaluation (Exs. WM-1 through WM-8.) Mr. Moruzin attended and declined to testify at the hearing. As explained in Part III below, this Court has carefully evaluated Moruzin's competency by considering such factors as evidence of irrational behavior, demeanor in court, mental health diagnosis, and Dr. Campbell's opinion regarding Moruzin's lack of present competency. This Court finds that Mr. Moruzin is suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to stand trial, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d) and applicable case law.

II. COMPETENCY HEARING PROCEDURE

In order to determine a criminal defendant's competency to stand trial, the district court must follow a mandatory process set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 4241. See United States v. Haywood, 155 F.3d 674, 680 (3d Cir. 1998). "The steps in that process are intended to culminate in a record-based judicial determination of competence in every case in which there is reason to doubt the defendant's competence to stand trial...[t]he Due Process Clause of the Constitution requires no less." Id. (citing Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 385 (1966)). First, a district court has a duty to order a competency hearing "at any time prior to sentencing of the defendant...if there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent." 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). Next, the court may order "a psychiatric or psychological examination of the defendant, and that a psychiatric or psychological report be filed with the court" to provide evidence for the hearing." Id. at § 4241(b).

Third, if the Court determines that it must hold a competency hearing, the hearing must be conducted pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4247(d). Id. at § 4241(c). Under Section 4247(d):

At a hearing ordered pursuant to this chapter the person whose mental condition is the subject of the hearing shall be represented by counsel . . . . The person shall be afforded the opportunity to testify, to present evidence, to subpoena witnesses on his behalf, and to confront and cross-examine witnesses who appear at the hearing.

18 U.S.C. § 4247(d). Upon the conclusion of the hearing, the district court may make a determination regarding the defendant's competency which is guided by 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d) which states, in pertinent part:

If, after the [competency] hearing, the 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 understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense, the court shall commit the defendant to the custody of the Attorney General.

18 U.S.C. § 4241(d).

The Third Circuit has interpreted Section 4241(d) to mean that a district court must look at the unique circumstances of the case and decide whether, by the ...


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