of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Mark S.
Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, Karl G. Sundquist,
Assistant County Attorney, Virginia, Minnesota, for
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Michael
McLaughlin, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul,
Minnesota, for appellant.
court of appeals is bound by supreme court precedent.
Because the State contended that the defendant was competent
to stand trial on criminal charges, the State bore the burden
of proving the defendant's competence.
Because we cannot be certain that the district court would
have reached the same competency determination had it applied
the correct burden of proof, a remand to the district court
GILDEA, CHIEF JUSTICE.
question presented in this case is whether the State or the
defendant bears the burden of proving in a criminal case that
the defendant is competent. The district court determined
that appellant Edwin Thomas Curtis was mentally competent to
proceed to trial. Following a stipulated-facts trial, the
court convicted Curtis of fourth-degree criminal sexual
conduct. On appeal, Curtis challenged the district
court's competency determination, arguing that the court
failed to place the burden of proof on the State as required
by State v. Ganpat, 732 N.W.2d 232 (Minn. 2007).
Declining to follow Ganpat, the court of appeals
held that competency should be determined based on the
greater weight of the evidence without regard to burden of
proof. Because the court of appeals and the district court
erred in failing to adhere to Ganpat and we cannot
be certain the district court would have made the same
competency determination had it applied the correct burden of
proof, we reverse the decision of the court of appeals and
remand to the district court for proceedings consistent with
State charged Curtis with criminal sexual conduct in the
fourth degree under Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1(d)
(2018). This statute prohibits sexual contact with a person
whom "the actor knows or has reason to know . . . is
mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically
helpless." The State alleged that on March 2, 2015,
Curtis touched an incapacitated person's breasts and
genitals through her clothing. Counsel for Curtis suggested
to the district court that Curtis was not mentally competent.
In response, the court ordered an evaluation of Curtis
consistent with Rules 20.01and 20.02 of the Rules of Criminal
Craig Stevens conducted the evaluation. Dr. Stevens had
examined Curtis before and was aware that Curtis had been
committed for mental health treatment in 2008, 2012, and
2013. Dr. Stevens acknowledged that Curtis suffered from a
significant mental illness. But because Dr. Stevens believed
that Curtis was malingering, Dr. Stevens concluded that it
was not possible to determine Curtis's capacity to stand
trial. Dr. Stevens opined that, because Curtis had not
demonstrated his incompetence, Curtis was competent.
receiving Dr. Stevens's report, the district court held a
hearing. Dr. Stevens summarized his Rule 20.01 finding at the
hearing: "Basically, I - I was unable - because of
[Curtis's] poor performance, and which appeared to be
purposeful, I really had no information about his competency,
and I believe the assumption is unless a person exhibits
incompetency, that the Court would view him as
the hearing, the district court determined that Curtis was
competent to stand trial. The court incorporated into its
findings of fact Dr. Stevens's opinion that "the
Court should find the Defendant to be competent as there is
no evidence, based on his examination, the Defendant is
incompetent." The court also referenced Dr.
Stevens's conclusion that Curtis was exaggerating his
symptoms. The district court's order did not cite any
specific evidence that indicated Curtis had the capacity to
participate in his defense, consult with counsel, or
understand the proceedings. Nevertheless, citing the standard