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State v. Epps

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 23, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Ron Wesley Epps, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-11-38319

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Connolly, Judge.

CONNOLLY, Judge

Appellant challenges his conviction of felony violation of a domestic abuse no contact order (DANCO). Because the district court did not err in refusing to order a Rule 20.01 competency evaluation and because appellant's other arguments fail, we affirm.

FACTS

In December 2011, officers responded to a call that two men were arguing and going in and out of a house in Minneapolis. They witnessed appellant Ron Wesley Epps run from the yard into an alley, where they apprehended him. The officers learned that Epps had an existing DANCO prohibiting him from going to the address or contacting T.R., who lived at the address. T.R. told the officers that Epps had come to his home to retrieve some personal property.

Prior to trial, Epps discharged his public defender and was assigned a replacement. Epps then rejected the state's plea offer and moved to discharge his second public defender and to proceed pro se with standby counsel. The district court granted his motions to discharge his public defender and to proceed pro se, but denied his motion for standby counsel.

Before voir dire, the state requested that the district court order a Rule 20.01 competency evaluation. The state based its motion on T.R.'s account of Epps's mental-health history. Epps objected, arguing that he had already been deemed competent to stand trial, that the state's motion was based on hearsay, that his prior psychiatric treatment was due to stress resulting from unemployment, and that the treatment was not related to hearing voices.

Although the district court expressed concern regarding Epps's mental health, it denied the motion. Epps's behavior during the pretrial and trial proceedings was disruptive. To manage his behavior, the district court repeatedly threatened to remove him from the courtroom, stay the proceedings for a Rule 20.01 competency evaluation, or order him "muzzled." The district court observed, however, that when in front of the jury, Epps's behavior calmed.

During its final jury instructions, the court recited the elements of a felony-level DANCO violation:

First, there was an existing court domestic abuse no contact order.
Second, the defendant violated a term or condition ...

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