Justices address incompetent defendants in 2 cases

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The Indiana Supreme Court handed down two opinions Tuesday in which the defendants, who were found to be incompetent at some point, argued that pending charges violated their rights to due process on fundamental-fairness grounds.

In Alva Curtis v. State of Indiana, No. 49S02-1010-CR-620, Alva Curtis appealed the denial of his September 2009 motion to dismiss and discharge under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C). He was charged June 28, 2007, with residential entry, battery, and criminal mischief. Curtis has a developmental disability and is unable to read. He was held for 29 days and later released. His competency was evaluated, with doctors saying he would likely never be restored to competency. He was never committed to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction and the trial court never made a finding that he was unlikely to regain competency, although it stated he would never become competent.

On interlocutory appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals found the pending criminal charges violated his right to due process and ordered the charging information dismissed. Curtis also raised constitutional speedy-trial claims in his appellate brief, but the COA didn’t address that claim or his Criminal Rule 4(C) issues.

The justices ruled Curtis forfeited his constitutional speedy-trial claims because he raised them for the first time on appeal, but they did find he is entitled to discharge under Criminal Rule 4(C) because he was held longer than one year on the charges after the justices took into account the delays attributable to Curtis.

The high court also addressed his due process argument and found the COA erred in ordering dismissal based on fundamental-fairness grounds. Using State v. Davis, 898 N.E.2d 281 (Ind. 2008), to support their decision, the justices noted that in the instant case, there was no proper finding that Curtis will never be restored to competency. Also, Curtis was never found to be incompetent under Indiana Code 35-36-3-1 nor has he been committed by the trial court.

“Those two facts alone take Curtis’s case outside the parameters of a due process violation,” wrote Justice Steven David.

In a companion opinion, Douglas Denzell v. State of Indiana, No. 49S02-1106-CR-340, the high court agreed with the COA that pending charges against Denzell do not violate his right to due process. Denzell, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was charged with misdemeanors resisting law enforcement and public intoxication after refusing to leave a bar. He was found incompetent to stand trial and committed to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, but was later sent to a hospital. In order to avoid trial, Denzell would stop taking his medication after he was considered restored to competency. The trial court later entered a commitment order.

Denzell wanted his charges dismissed, arguing he had already served the maximum imposable sentence for his charges. The trial court denied the motion. The justices noted that Denzell can be restored to competency but sabotages that process by not taking his medication.

“It would be counterintuitive to allow a defendant to assert a due process violation based on incompetency if the defendant himself purposely decompensated to avoid going to court” so he doesn’t have a viable fundamental-fairness argument, wrote Justice David.

As they noted in Curtis, the justices emphasized that there may be factual scenarios that differ from Davis and other relevant precedent that still fall within the parameters of a due process violation, but Denzell’s case is not one of them.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues