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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. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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