It takes longer for me to get audio of a hearing that I participated in, from the recording device in the courtroom that is located in the same building as my office and the office of the person who pulls the audio… CAAF’s handling of argument audio might be the only system that moves faster the closer to Washington D.C. it gets.
Category: United States v. Mott
CAAF will hear oral argument in the case of United States v. Mott, No. 12-0604/NA, on Wednesday, January 23, 2013. The court granted review of the following issues:
I. A lack of mental responsibility defense exists when a mentally diseased accused cannot appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. Here, experts testified that appellant’s paranoid schizophrenia and severe delusions created his subjective belief that stabbing the victim was justified. But the military judge and NMCCA adopted an objective standard for “wrongfulness.” What is the appropriate standard in determining whether an accused can appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct?
II. Under the Fifth Amendment, an accused’s statement to investigators is admissible only if it was obtained with a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver where the accused understands his rights and the consequences of waiving them. Here, expert witnesses testified that appellant could not understand his rights or the consequences of waiving them because of his severe mental disease. Did the military judge err by admitting the statement?
This case arose out of a stabbing that occurred aboard USS Cape St George in 2007. The Appellant believed that the victim (a fellow sailor he had never seen before) had participated in a gang rape of the Appellant in 2003. The Appellant was suffering from paranoid delusions at the time of the stabbing, and he was later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic (and was initially declared incompetent to stand trial, followed by eight months of treatment at the Prison Mental Health Facility at Butner, North Carolina). He was eventually tried and convicted, contrary to his pleas, by a military judge sitting as a general court-martial, of attempted premeditated murder, in violation of Article 80, UCMJ. The approved sentence was confinement for 12 years, total forfeitures, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge.
However, the findings and sentence were set-aside by the NMCCA in 2009 due to a Behenna-esqe discovery violation. Specifically, the Government expert “verbally informed the trial counsel that he agreed with the defense expert that the appellant suffered from a severe mental disease and that said disease caused the appellant not to understand the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the charged misconduct. . . . We find, therefore, that the trial counsel’s failure to disclose the expert medical opinion of their expert, Dr. [H], was error.” United States v. Mott, No. 200900115, slip op. at 5 (N-M.Ct.Crim.App. Nov 24, 2009) (unpublished) (Mott I).
The Appellant was retried in 2010, this time before a general court-martial composed of officer members. He was again convicted, contrary to his pleas, of attempted premeditated murder, in violation of Article 80, UCMJ. He was sentenced to confinement for nine years, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge. The NMCCA affirmed the findings and sentence in April, 2012.
During the retrial, the Appellant unsuccessfully presented the affirmative defense of lack of mental responsibility. At the NMCCA, he argued that his conviction was legally and factually insufficient because he was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions. The CCA began its analysis by “not[ing] that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has not defined the phrase ‘appreciate the wrongfulness’ in its existing case law.” United States v. Mott, No. 200900115, slip op. at 10 (N-M.Ct.Crim.App. Apr 30, 2012) (unpublished) (Mott II). It then considered the three possible definitions recognized in federal caselaw:
(1) legal wrongfulness, as in “contrary to law”;
(2) moral wrongfulness, as in “contrary to public morality,” determined objectively by reference to society’s condemnation of the act as morally wrong; or
(3) moral wrongfulness, as in “contrary to personal morality,” determined subjectively by reference to the defendant’s belief that his action was morally justified
Mott II, slip op. at 10 (quoting United States v. Ewing, 494 F.3d 607, 616 (7th Cir. 2007)). The Appellant asked the court to adopt the third definition (subjective belief of wrongfulness), but the court “agree[d] with the Seventh Circuit’s well-reasoned analysis in Ewing and . . . conclude[d] that the phrase ‘appreciate the wrongfulness’ must employ an objective societal standard of moral wrongfulness.” Mott II, slip op. at 10. This action (and the trial military judge’s similar adoption of the objective test in his instructions to the members) is the subject of the first granted issue before CAAF.
Additionally, in a pretrial motion, the Appellant sought to suppress a confession he made to NCIS shortly after the stabbing, on the basis that his waiver of his right against self-incrimination was not knowing and intelligent based on the opinion of a “a forensic psychiatrist, who opined that the appellant’s diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia prevented him from understanding the consequences of the waiver.” Mott II, slip op. at 3. The trial judge denied the motion, and the NMCCA affirmed based on the totality of the circumstances. This action is the subject of the second granted issue.
Here’s a very interesting report by the Virginian-Pilot‘s Kate Wiltrout about the second attempted premeditated murder court-martial of Seaman Richard Mott. One of the TCs in the case was our very own CDR Jason Grover, the Super Muppet of Advocacy. Mott’s original conviction was set aside by this unpublished NMCCA opinion due to a discovery violation.