United States v. White

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 02-29-2012
  • Case #: 07-10460
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wallace for the Court; Circuit Judge M. Smith and Senior District Judge Rakoff
  • Full Text Opinion

A district court’s failure to hold a second or subsequent competency hearing sua sponte is reviewed for abuse of discretion, and a defendant is competent to stand trial if he understands the nature of the charges and consequences of the proceedings against him, and has the ability to assist in his defense.

White and eight co-defendants were indicted for a series of racketeering charges. The district court held a competency hearing for White and found reasonable cause to believe he was incompetent to stand trial. While at the Federal Medical Center in North Carolina, White’s doctors deemed him competent, and White proceeded to trial after the district court found him competent to stand trial. During the twenty-five days of trial, White attended four days without incident. On the other days, he interrupted the court by yelling and making death threats, resulting in his removal or absence from the courtroom. White was convicted for “conducting affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, conspiring to do so, and with committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity.” White appealed his conviction, arguing that the district court erred in failing to hold a second competency hearing, sua sponte. Since “the decision whether to hold a second or subsequent competency hearing rests in the trial judge’s sound discretion,” the Ninth Circuit reviewed the district court’s failure to hold a second competency hearing for an abuse of discretion. The Court found that the evidence, including certification of competency from White’s doctors, the opinion of White’s attorney that White was competent, and the district judge’s own interactions with White, was sufficient to prove that White understood the nature of the charges and consequences of the proceedings against him. Evidence also showed that a reasonable judge could conclude that White had the ability to assist in his own defense, but was choosing not to do so. AFFIRMED.

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