Confession - Psychiatric Examination

Favorable and Noteworthy Decisions in the Supreme Court and Federal Appellate Courts
By Don Samuel
Garland, Samuel & Loeb, P.C.
Sep 1, 2015

Kansas v. Cheever, 134 S. Ct. 596 (2013)

The defendant provided notice that he would rely on a mental capacity defense. The court ordered that he submit to a psychiatric examination. At trial, the defendant introduced the testimony of an expert that the defendant was suffering from the effects of long term voluntary intoxication.This opend the door to the state’s introduction of the expert testimony of the state’s expert on rebuttal.

Powell v. Texas, 492 U.S. 680 (1989)

Neither the defendant nor his counsel was advised that psychiatric examinations which were to be performed were for the purpose of determining the issue of future dangerousness. There was no basis in the record to conclude that the defendant waived his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Satterwhite v. Texas, 486 U.S. 249 (1988)

Following the defendant’s arraignment, the state arranged for a psychiatrist to question the defendant. A notice was filed by the District Attorney and by the court but such notices were not served on the defendant’s attorney and he was not aware of these documents having been filed. The Court holds that this violates the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. See Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. 454 (1981). The Court also held that a harmless error analysis can be applied, but that the error was not harmless in this case.

Gibbs v. Frank, 387 F.3d 268 (3rd Cir. 2004)

Prior to the defendant’s first state trial, he advised that he was raising a mental health defense. He waived his Miranda rights and submitted to a court-ordered psychiatric examination. At his second trial (his first trial resulted in a conviction that was reversed), he did not raise a psychiatric defense. The state was not permitted to use statements he made during the psychiatric examination. Permitting the state to do so was grounds for granting a writ of habeas corpus. The court reviewed the relevant Supreme Court precedent: Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. 454 (1981); Buchanan v. Kentucky, 483 U.S. 402 (1987); Satterwhite v. Texas, 486 U.S. 249 (1988); Powell v. Texas, 492 U.S. 680 (1989); and Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782 (2001). A compelled psychiatric interview implicates Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. The warnings must advise the defendant of the consequences of foregoing the right to remain silent. When the defendant initiates the interview, the Fifth Amendment privilege is waived to the extent that the state may use the results to rebut a psychiatric defense. In this case, the state did not establish that the waiver involved a clear explanation of the consequences of the interview (i.e., that it could be used in any subsequent trial, including one in which the defendant did not raise a psychiatric defense).

Woods v. Johnson, 75 F.3d 1017 (5th Cir. 1996)

It was error, but harmless, to permit a psychiatrist to testify as to future dangerousness, where the psychiatrist’s examination of the defendant was conducted without notice to counsel, and without Miranda safeguards.

Brown v. Butler, 876 F.2d 427 (5th Cir. 1989)

The defendant was compelled to be interviewed by a forensic psychiatrist. Though the error was harmless, it was improper during the State’s rebuttal to use the defendant’s non-Mirandized statements to the psychiatrist.

United States v. Wagner, 834 F.2d 1474 (9th Cir. 1987)

The trial court gave a consciousness of guilt instruction based on the defendant’s refusal to submit to a psychiatric examination. Though error, the court holds that it was not plain error and the defendant’s failure to object constitutes a waiver of the error.

Delguidice v. Singletary, 84 F.3d 1359 (11th Cir. 1996)

The defendant had two pending charges and two attorneys. When the defendant was ordered to submit to an examination with regard to one of the cases, neither lawyer was informed that the psychiatrist would examine the defendant with regard to both cases. Admitting the psychiatrist’s testimony in the second case was reversible error.