For those of you still wondering what is going on in the Daryl Holton case, the Federal Public Defenders who are representing Holton have filed their brief with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court. The brief makes a number of arguments far too complex for me to go into (or really to comprehend) but here goes my limited understanding.
When an inmate is attempting to drop his appeals and there are questions regarding his mental competency, attorneys are expected to demonstrate reasonable cause to believe that the person is mentally ill. This can be done by testimony of attorneys demonstrating that the client has not been able to understand or engage with them regarding the issues of his case; testimony from family members regarding suicidal motivations; or testimony from mental health experts. In the case of Daryl Holton, his attorneys presented all three, when one of the above has been seen as demonstrating reasonable cause in other cases. In the case that reasonable cause is found, an adversarial hearing should ensue. That is, Holton’s attorneys would be allowed to produce evidence and witnesses testifying to his incompetency, while the state produces evidence of his competence.
But this isn’t what happened in Holton’s case. While Holton’s attorneys presented all the above evidence, the district court refused to rule on whether reasonable cause had been demonstrated and instead ordered that its own expert evaluate Holton and then present his findings to the court. The court even refused to allow Holton’s attorneys access to the expert or his raw data. In other words, the court added a new hurdle for Holton to clear, just out of the blue!
Additionally, Holton never said in court that he wanted to dismiss all his claims, only some of them, yet the court went ahead and ruled that he wanted to forfeit all his claims anyway!
Hopefully the U.S. Sixth Circuit will have sense enough to see the merits of these arguments. And, on a more fundamental level, hopefully our state will see that claiming that a man who clearly suffers from mental illness is competent is an exercise in injustice!
Read the entire brief here.
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