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State v. Hawkins

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise

April 17, 2013

STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Faron Raymond HAWKINS, Defendant-Respondent.

Page 514

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Lori A. Fleming, Deputy Attorney General argued.

Brady Law Chtd., Boise, for respondent. Eric D. Fredericksen argued.

BURDICK, Chief Justice.

This is a permissive interlocutory appeal from the district court's determination that the law of the case doctrine prohibited it from making a retroactive determination of Faron Hawkins's mental competency when he stood trial in January 2008.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In January 2008, a jury convicted Faron Hawkins of two counts of robbery. He appealed his conviction and the Idaho Court of Appeals issued a decision on December 30, 2009, vacating the conviction and remanding the matter for a new trial. The Court of Appeals determined that the district court erred by not having Hawkins undergo a mental health evaluation during his jury trial to determine whether or not he was competent to proceed. Specifically, the Court of Appeals stated:

Taking into account all of the indicia of bizarre notions demonstrated before trial started, there was enough evidence in this case to put the district court on notice that Hawkins' competence was in question. Even if the pretrial conduct was insufficient to call for a competency evaluation, certainly Hawkins' testimony during the trial presented compelling indicia that he was not in touch with reality. When taking the entire record into account, the district court should have entertained a reasonable doubt about Hawkins' mental competency either to stand trial or to represent himself. Therefore, the district court's failure to sua sponte order a mental evaluation and make a determination as to Hawkins' competency was an abuse of discretion.
Because it is not possible to retroactively make a determination as to Hawkins' competency at the time he was tried, we must vacate the judgment of conviction and leave the state free to retry Hawkins if he is found to be competent to stand trial.

State v. Hawkins, 148 Idaho 774, 782-83, 229 P.3d 379, 387-88 (Ct.App.2009).

On remand, the district court ordered Hawkins to undergo a competency evaluation pursuant to I.C. ยงยง 18-211 and 18-212. Licensed psychologist Dr. Chad Sombke and licensed psychiatrist Dr. Michael Estess evaluated Hawkins and testified that based on their interactions with him, his responses to testing, and information regarding his social and institutional history, Hawkins was

Page 515

competent to stand trial. Dr. Estess was a consulting psychiatrist for the Ada County Jail and had a clinic there with three masters-level social workers on staff throughout the two-year period Hawkins was incarcerated at the Ada County Jail. Dr. Estess testified that he interacted with Hawkins individually during this time period on several occasions and also spoke often with social workers and jail staff who had more frequent contact with him. Between 2006 and 2008, neither he nor his staff believed that Hawkins suffered from any mental illness. Dr. Estess testified at Hawkins's 2010 competency hearing that, based on the documents he reviewed, the interviews he conducted, and his interactions and his staff's interactions with Hawkins prior to trial, he believed Hawkins was " perfectly competent to understand the nature of the proceedings, to confer with an attorney in his own defense and understand what was going on" at the time he was tried in January 2008. It is unclear whether the Court of Appeals knew of Dr. Estess's interactions with Hawkins when it reviewed his appeal from his 2008 conviction. Based on the totality of the evidence presented to it, " including admitted exhibits and testimony presented during the competency hearing," the district court found that Hawkins was both presently competent to stand trial and had been competent to stand trial in January 2008. However, the court found that the law of the case required it to retry the case.

The State timely moved to file an interlocutory appeal from this decision, which the district court granted. The State then requested this Court's permission to appeal from the district court's December 6, 2010 Order, which this Court granted.

II. ANALYSIS

The State appeals the district court's determination that the law of the case doctrine required it to follow the Court of Appeals's directive that Hawkins is entitled to a new trial. In relevant part the Court of Appeals stated, " Because it is not possible to retroactively make a determination as to Hawkins' competency at the time he was tried, we must vacate the judgment of conviction and leave the state free to retry Hawkins if he is found to be competent to stand trial." Hawkins, 148 Idaho at 783, 229 P.3d at 388. The question before this Court is whether this language prohibits the district court from making a retroactive determination of Hawkins's mental competency when he stood trial in 2008. Hawkins first ...


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