Rouse v. Cameron (No. 2)

387 F.2d 241 (1967)
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Petitioner Rouse brought this habeas corpus action alleging that he had been unlawfully committed to a hospital for the mentally ill because he had not voluntarily and knowingly introduced the insanity defense or authorized his attorney to do so during his trial on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a weapon without a license.

When he was eighteen, Rouse was stopped by a police officer and ordered to open the “small but heavy suitcase” he was carrying. According to Rouse, he opened the suitcase only on the officer’s order. The case was found to contain a fully loaded automatic pistol and a large amount of ammunition. Rouse was taken into custody by the officer and the contents of the suitcase were seized.

At trial, a motion to suppress was filed on the advice of Petitioner’s court-appointed attorney on the ground that the search was in violation of the Fourth Amendment because it was incident to an unlawful arrest. This motion was never heard. Instead, new counsel, retained by Petitioner’s mother, instigated a pretrial mental examination under D.C Code § 24-301(d). According to petitioner’s undisputed testimony, he did not confer with his new attorney until a few moments before the trial commenced. An affidavit by Petitioner’s mother stated her belief that her son was mentally ill and that he could benefit from treatment.

The mental examination was ordered by the court. The examiner’s report concluded that Rouse was “able to understand the charges against him and capable of assisting counsel in his own defense.” The report also concluded that Rouse was “suffering from a passive-aggressive personality disorder,” which was determined to have triggered the crime.

Rouse was acquitted of the charge on grounds of insanity and was thereafter involuntarily committed to a hospital, without a hearing, pursuant to D.C Code § 24-301(d).

At trial, defense counsel did not challenge the conclusions of the prosecution, which were based on the testimony of the arresting officer and examining physician. The physician testified that Rouse was mentally ill, dangerous and treatable. The police officer was not questioned about the circumstances in which the suitcase was opened. Petitioner and his mother testified for the defense. Petitioner’s mother expressed agreement with psychiatrist’s testimony.  She also gave evidence that Rouse had purchased the gun with a bad check. The defense counsel elicited this admission from Rouse when he took the stand.

The Court first examined whether Rouse voluntarily and knowingly sought the introduction of the insanity defense at his trial? The court held that the District Court's determination that petitioner himself sought the introduction of the insanity defense at his trial was “clearly erroneous.” The court held:

The record plainly reveal[ed] that the lawyer retained by petitioner’s mother invoked the insanity defense at her discretion against the express wishes of petitioner; that petitioner made a substantial effort to divorce himself from the decisions which his mother and the lawyer she retained made in his behalf; and that petitioner’s desire for treatment neither negated nor contradicted his wish to defend against the criminal charge or his belief that he had been lured into an insanity plea.

The Court then examined whether the Petitioner evidenced in his acquiescence in the insanity defense by waiting almost four years to attack the validity of his mandatory commitment. The court held that mandatory commitment under D.C Code § 24-301(d) was only permissible if a defendant acquitted on the ground of insanity had “affirmatively relied on a defense of insanity.”[1] The court held that “in light of petitioner's apparent disabilities, including, for example his lack of financial means and learning in the law, and the likelihood that he [had] been suffering from some mental illness,” he had not evidenced in his acquiescence in the insanity defense by waiting almost four years to attack the validity of his mandatory commitment.



[1] Lynch v. Overholster, 369 U.S. 705 (1962).

“The record plainly reveals that the lawyer retained by the petitioner's mother invoked the insanity defense at her direction against the express wishes of petitioner; that petitioner made a substantial effort to divorce himself from the decisions which his mother and the lawyer she retained made in his behalf; and that petitioner's desire for treatment neither negated nor contradicted his wish to defend against the criminal charge or his belief that he had been "lured into" an insanity plea.” 387 F.2d, p. 245.

“We think the District Court's determination that petitioner himself sought the introduction of the insanity defense at this trial was clearly erroneous. And, in light of petitioner's apparent disabilities, including, for example his lack of financial means and learning in the law, and the likelihood that he has been suffering from some mental illness, we also reject the court's finding that petitioner evidenced his acquiescence in the insanity defense by waiting almost four years to attack the validity of his mandatory commitment.” 387 F.2d, p. 245.

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