The opinion of the court was delivered by: Daniel L. Hovland, Chief Judge United States District Court
This matter comes before the Court as a result of the Order for Competency Evaluation filed on April 17, 2009. See Docket No. 49. Thereafter, the Defendant underwent an evaluation at the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown, North Dakota.
On June 12, 2009, the Competency Evaluation of Dr. Robert D. Lisota was issued. See Exhibit No. 2. Copies of the evaluation were immediately sent to counsel. Dr. Lisota issued a detailed report and evaluation and opined that the defendant, Kyle Ray DeCoteau, was competent to stand trial. A competency hearing was held on August 26, 2009, in Bismarck, North Dakota.
The defendant, Kyle Ray DeCoteau, was evaluated at the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown, North Dakota, on June 9, 2009. During his time at the facility, DeCoteau was observed by staff and was seen by Dr. Lisota, a forensic psychologist. DeCoteau took part in a lengthy clinical interview on June 9, 2009, and was administered a series of psychological tests and assessments consisting of the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, Second Edition (KBIT-2), the Competence Assessment for Standing Trial for Defendants with Mental Retardation (CAST*MR), and the Revised Competency Assessment Instrument (R-CAI). The results of the tests and assessments are set forth in detail below:
Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, Second Edition (KBIT-2): Mr. Decoteau received an IQ Composite score (mean =100, standard deviation =15 points) of 55, placing him in the "lower extreme" with regard to the KBIT-2 normative sample. There is a statistically significant (p < .01)="" verbal="" (69)="" v.="" nonverbal="" (52)="" difference,="" which="" indicates="" that="" mr.="" decoteau="" is="" likely="" to="" present="" as="" higher="" functioning="" than="" he="" actually="" is.="" the="" results="" of="" the="" kbit-2="" are="" consistent="" with="" previous="" testing="" which="" places="" him="" in="" the="" mild="" mental="" retardation="" range="" with="" respect="" to="" cognitive="">
Competence Assessment for Standing Trial for Defendants with Mental Retardation (CAST*MR): The CAST*MR is unique with regard to standardized competency assessment instruments in that it is designed specifically to assess individuals who have varying degrees of cognitive impairment. Mr. Decoteau received a score of 18/25 on the Basic Legal Concepts section of the test, the mean or average score of individuals who were mentally-retarded (MR) and found competent to stand trial was 18.3, the mean score of MR individuals who were not found competent was 12.3. In a similar manner, Mr. Decoteau received a score of 14/15 in the Skills to Assist Defense portion of the test, the mean score for MR-competent individuals was 10.7. The final section of the CAST*MR was problematic in that Mr. Decoteau's version of events is radically different from that presented by the authorities. Two questions could not be answered by Mr. Decoteau without essentially incriminating himself, something he was careful not to do. As such, the third section standard scores cannot be reported. It is important to note, however, that of the eight questions he was able to answer, he received full credit which indicates that he has no significant difficulty with regard to understanding case events.
Revised Competency Assessment Instrument (R-CAI): The R-CAI is not a standardized assessment instrument, nor was it developed specifically to address questions associated with competency in a population with significant cognitive deficits. Nevertheless, the instrument (structured interview) is quite useful in this case in terms of "testing the limits" and establishing exactly what Mr. Decoteau does and does not understand with regard to trial competency issues and how well he responds to remediation. When asked questions about the charge he was facing, Mr. Decoteau responded "rape" but knew the charge itself was worded differently. When asked what actions one would have to perform in order to be charged/convicted of such a crime, he was initially confused but responded well to a brief discussion on the topic. He understood that this was a very serious charge.
When asked what possible penalties he would face, he responded "30 years to life." When asked how he could confirm this, he reiterated he could/would ask his attorney (federal sentencing guidelines examined by the undersigned indicate a sentence of approximately 20-25 years). He understood that if convicted he would have to serve his time in prison, and demonstrated a good understanding of probation and the associated conditions/penalties.
With regard to available legal defenses (pleas), he understood that he could enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty" and what those meant. He did not appear familiar with the concept of "Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity" (NGRI) but responded fairly well with some education. Nevertheless, his understanding of this particular plea is an area that would likely require a significant amount of remediation before he could fully understand the implications associated with such a plea. He felt that he could best be defended against the charge filed by being able to prove that he was at home when the alleged crime occurred, which is reasonable. He had a fairly good grasp of the role of defense counsel, the prosecutor, the jury, and the defendant. Roles which required remediation included that of the judge and witnesses, but Mr. Decoteau appeared to understand these concepts reasonably well after discussing them in detail.
In discussing his understanding of court procedures, Mr. Decoteau did not know whether or not defendants have to testify, but responded well to brief education on the topic. He understands that it is his own attorney that is the only person that can call on him to testify, that when testifying it is in his best interest to answer the questions asked, and that the prosecutor is trying to prove that he is guilty (and that if he testifies, he will have to answer questions posed by the prosecution). He did not understand the difference between a bench and jury trial initially, but quickly grasped this concept.
His motivation to help himself with regard to the potential outcome of a trial is quite high, he understands that at this time the court does have authority over him, the concept of evidence (but is unaware of what evidence the prosecution has) and feels good about his chances of being found not guilty. Mr. Decoteau understood the basic concept of a plea bargain, and responded well to brief education about rights that he would have to give up if he took a plea bargain. When asked what he would do if a plea bargain was offered, he stated that he would talk about it with his lawyer and follow his advice in the matter. When asked whether or not he would consider a plea of NGRI, he stated that he wasn't sure, but would do so if his lawyer felt that was the best way to proceed.
Mr. Decoteau was unable to provide his attorney's last name (his card is in Mr. Decoteau's wallet, which he did not have at the time of the evaluation) and knows him as "Bill". He reports meeting with his attorney in excess of 20 times, and has a very high degree of confidence in his attorney. He understands the concept of attorney-client confidentiality, states that he remembers everything that happened with regard to the time of the alleged offense, understands that his attorney ...