Attorneys for Appellee
Karen M. Freeman-Wilson
Attorney General of Indiana
Arthur Thaddeus Perry
Deputy Attorney General
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below ).
) Supreme Court No.
August 20, 2001
Dr. Schusters findings were predicated on the continued use of the drugs.
ster concluded the following:
As a result of my examination it is my opinion with reasonable medical certainty that [Defendant] is competent to stand trial in that he understands he is charged with a crime, that he understands the legal procedures thereon and he is able to assist his attorney in his own defense.
(R. at 64.)
Dr. Masbaums evaluation was not predicated on Defendants use of medication. He
concluded, It is my opinion, based on reasonable medical certainty, that this individual,
in spite of his various diagnoses does have comprehension sufficient to understand the
nature of the proceedings. He is able to aid his attorney in
(R. at 67.)
Defendants pre-sentence report showed that Defendant had not received his medication after being transferred to the jail. Defendant thereupon filed a motion to correct errors seeking a new trial. Citing the incorrect information given to Drs. Schuster and Masbaum, he argued that he had not in fact been competent to stand trial.
The trial court denied Defendants motion, stating:
The Court considers both the reports; that is, the reports that were filed in connection with this case by Dr. Schuster and Dr. Masbaum. The Court also considers the evidence introduced during the trial of this matter and the Courts observation of Mr. Cotton throughout the trial of this case. And, it appeared that he was able to confer with counsel. And the Court, in its observations, saw nothing that would indicate to the Court that the defendant was not competent to stand trial.
(R. at 591.)
Defendant now argues that The trial court should have suspended the sentencing u
such time as a determination of [Defendants] competence to understand the proceeding and
to assist his counsel, without the benefit medication, was made. Appellants Br.
Indiana Code § 35-36-3-1 provides:
If at any time before the final submission of any criminal case to the court or the jury trying the case, the court has reasonable grounds for b elieving that the defendant lacks the ability to understand the proceedings and assist in the preparation of his defense, the court shall immediately fix a time for a hearing to determine whether the defendant has that ability.
Whether reasonable grounds exist to order an evaluation of competency is a decision
ssigned to the sound discretion of the trial court and is reviewed only
for an abuse of discretion. See Haviland v. State, 677 N.E.2d 509,
516 (Ind. 1997), rehg denied. The courts observations of a defendant in
court can be an adequate basis for finding that a competency hearing is
not necessary. See Manuel v. State, 535 N.E.2d 1159, 1162 (Ind. 1989);
Culpepper v. State, 662 N.E.2d 670, 674 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996), transfer denied.
We find that the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant
a competency hearing. Prior to the trial, the trial court found a
competency hearing necessary. At the hea
ring, the parties stipulated to Defendants competency,
although, Drs. Schuster and Masbaum were not aware that Defendant was not receiving
medication. At the time of Defendants motion to correct errors, the trial
court again considered whether or not to conduct a new competency hearing.
This time, however, the trial court concluded that a hearing was not necessary.
This decision was based on the pre-trial reports and Defendants conduct at
trial. We believe that the report and conduct provided the trial court
with sufficient information to determine whether further inquiry into Defendants competence was
Defendant cites Smith v. State, in which we ruled that a precursor to Indiana Code § 35-36-3-1 requires that a determination of competency must be made by disinterested psychologists or physicians. 443 N.E.2d 1187, 1190 (Ind. 1983). Smith, however, involved the requisite procedure to determine competence; the procedures are only required under Indiana Code § 35-36-3-1 if the court has reasonable grounds for believing that the defendant lacks the ability to understand the proceedings and assist in the preparation of his defense. Here, the trial court, after observing Defendant throughout trial, found there were no grounds to believe that Defendant lacked the ability to understand the proceedings. We see no basis for concluding that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that Defendant was competent.