Kimberly A. Svendsen and Timothy C. Rank, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for plaintiff.
Daniel L. Gerdts, for defendant.
PATRICK J. SCHILTZ, District Judge.
Defendant Patricia Ann McQuarry was indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 286 and for making false, fictitious, or fraudulent claims upon or against the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287. Not long after the indictment in this case was filed, McQuarry notified the Court that she wanted to represent herself during these proceedings. See ECF No. 49. The Court conducted a hearing pursuant to Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), and determined that McQuarry was mentally competent and capable of waiving her right to counsel. See Faretta Hr'g Tr. at 28 [ECF No. 93]. Recent developments in this case have, however, given the Court "sufficient doubt about the accused's competence, " and thus the Court has decided to order a psychiatric or psychological examination of McQuarry, followed by a hearing on the question of whether McQuarry is competent to stand trial. United States v. Casteel, 717 F.3d 635, 641 (8th Cir. 2013) (quotation omitted). This order explains the basis for the Court's decision.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
"The conviction of an incompetent person is a violation of due process...." United States v. Rickert, 685 F.3d 760, 765 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378 (1966)). A defendant is competent to stand trial if she has (1) "a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against [her]" and (2) "is able to consult with [her] lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding." United States v. Ghane, 593 F.3d 775, 780 (8th Cir. 2010) (quotations omitted).
"To safeguard this due process guarantee, the Supreme Court has established a separate procedural due process right to a competency hearing." Reynolds v. Norris, 86 F.3d 796, 800 (8th Cir. 1996) (citing Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 172 (1975)). This right to a competency hearing is triggered whenever the Court becomes aware of evidence that raises a "sufficient doubt about the accused's competence." Casteel, 717 F.3d at 641 (quotation omitted). The Eighth Circuit has identified a number of factors that a court may consider in determining whether such "sufficient doubt" exists, including evidence of irrational behavior by the accused, the accused's demeanor before the court, and any prior medical opinions about the competence of the accused. See Reynolds, 86 F.3d at 800. A court may also consider any concerns about the accused's competence that have been expressed by her attorney, although such concerns are not sufficient by themselves to establish the "sufficient doubt" that triggers the need for a competency hearing. Id.
If a court finds that a competency hearing is necessary, "the court may order that a psychiatric or psychological examination of the defendant be conducted, and that a psychiatric or psychological report be filed with the court" prior to the hearing. 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b). See also Fed. R. Crim. P. 12.2(c)(1)(A) ("The court may order the defendant to submit to a competency examination under 18 U.S.C. § 4241."). In addition, "the court may commit the person to be examined for a reasonable period... to the custody of the Attorney General for placement in a suitable facility" for performing the evaluation. 18 U.S.C. § 4247(b). That "reasonable period" of commitment may not exceed 30 days, unless the director of the facility at which the defendant is committed applies for an extension, in which case the defendant may be committed for an additional period not to exceed 15 days. Id.
A. Competency Hearing
As explained above, a defendant is not competent to stand trial unless she meets two criteria. First, the defendant must have "a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against [her]...." Ghane, 593 F.3d at 780 (quotation omitted). Second, the defendant must be "able to consult with [her] lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding." Id. (quotation omitted). The Court is concerned that neither of these is true with respect to McQuarry. Accordingly, a hearing to establish McQuarry's competence is necessary.
1. Understanding of the Proceedings
Throughout these proceedings, McQuarry has relied on the type of nonsensical arguments commonly made by tax protesters. See, e.g., ECF No. 75 (document putatively authorizing "trust" to reimburse the government for any loss allegedly caused by McQuarry); ECF No. 79 (document seeking to withdraw plea of not guilty in effort to deprive the Court of jurisdiction); ECF No. 81 (memorandum alleging that the Court lacks jurisdiction over this case because the government has not proven that the crimes alleged of McQuarry took place on property owned by the federal government). The Court is familiar with these arguments, as it has tried a number of tax-protester cases. The Court obviously recognizes that a defendant can be competent even though she makes frivolous arguments; indeed, in the Court's prior tax-protester cases, the Court has never been concerned about the competence of any of the defendants. For several reasons, though, the Court does have such concern about McQuarry.
To being with, even by tax-protester standards, McQuarry's arguments have been strange and seem to have become ...