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State v. Grant

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 17, 2018

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Walter Joseph Grant, Jr., Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Stutsman County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable Mark T. Blumer, Judge.

          Frederick R. Fremgen, Stutsman County State's Attorney, Jamestown, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Kiara Costa Kraus-Parr, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          Crothers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Walter Grant, Jr. appeals from a criminal judgment entered after he pled guilty to gross sexual imposition, burglary, aggravated assault, and terrorizing. He argues the district court committed obvious error by failing to determine whether he was competent to proceed. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] In August 2016 Grant was charged with gross sexual imposition, burglary, aggravated assault, terrorizing, and felonious restraint. At Grant's initial district court appearance he was uncooperative, he said he was not going to listen to the judge, and he put his fingers in his ears. The hearing was ended as a result of Grant's behavior. The hearing was later completed at the jail.

         [¶ 3] The State moved for a forensic psychological examination to determine whether Grant suffered from a mental disease or defect and whether he lacked substantial capacity to comprehend the harmful nature or consequences of his conduct for the offenses. The State also requested determination whether Grant had capacity to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his defense. The district court granted the State's motion and ordered a psychological examination.

         [¶ 4] In October 2016 Grant's attorney informed the court Grant refused to meet with him and twice refused to meet with the forensic examiner. The State moved for an order transporting Grant to the State Hospital to be examined through observation for thirty days. The court granted the State's motion and ordered Grant be transported to the State Hospital for the examination.

         [¶ 5] On October 26, 2016 Grant's attorney moved to withdraw, stating Grant wanted to terminate the attorney-client relationship. After a hearing, at which Grant refused to appear, the court granted the attorney's motion in a December 5, 2016 order.

         [¶ 6] On December 1, 2016 the evaluation report was filed. The examiner concluded with a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that Grant was competent to proceed and no reason existed to believe Grant lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his defense. The examiner found Grant likely was trying to delay the legal process or raise grounds through which he might gain some benefit, and it seemed likely Grant would make the legal proceedings against him as difficult as possible for his attorney and the court.

         [¶ 7] On December 13, 2016 a new attorney was assigned to represent Grant. In January 2017 the attorney moved to withdraw, claiming Grant refused contact with him and created a situation in which the attorney could no longer represent him. In February 2017 the district court granted the attorney's motion. Another attorney was assigned to represent Grant. In July 2017 Grant's third attorney moved to withdraw. The district court denied the motion, stating Grant's actions with each of his attorneys made it difficult for the attorneys to work with him and his lack of cooperation with his third attorney did not warrant delaying trial or allowing withdrawal.

         [¶ 8] The State and Grant reached a plea agreement. Grant pled guilty to gross sexual imposition, burglary, aggravated assault, and terrorizing. The felonious restraint ...


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