U.S. v. Duhon, W.D.La., 2000

Keywords: Competence to stand trial and  mental retardation

Summary:  The Federal Court deals with a case of an individual with mental retardation and whether he can be restored to competence. The Court finds that “rote” learning is not sufficient to establish competence; rather,  an individual needs to have a cognitive/rational understanding and be able to apply the factual understanding, not just recite it.

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UNITED STATES of America v. Keith Joseph DUHON.

No. 97-60034-001.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette and Opelousas Division.

June 1, 2000

Joseph Thomas Mickel, U.S. Atty’s Office, Lafayette, LA, for U.S.

Wayne J. Blanchard, Federal Public Defenders Office, Lafayette, LA, for Defendant.

Patricia Williamson, Milton, LA, interested party, pro se.


METHVIN, United States Magistrate Judge.

Following two evidentiary hearings, the undersigned magistrate judge concluded that Keith Joseph Duhon was incompetent to stand trial due to his mental retardation. [1] As required by law, the court committed Duhon to the custody of the Attorney General for hospitalization “to determine whether there is a substantial probability that … he will attain the capacity to permit the trial to proceed.” [2] Eight weeks later, citing Duhon’s successful participation in the hospital’s “Competency Restoration Group,” the hospital certified Duhon as competent to stand trial. A third evidentiary hearing was held. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned concludes that the hospital’s certification of competency fails to meet the minimal standards of reliability under Daubert, and must therefore be rejected. The more compelling evidence, including the testimony of court-appointed experts in forensic psychology and criminal law, establishes that Duhon remains incompetent to stand trial due to mental retardation, a learning disorder, and a seizure disorder. The undersigned also concludes that no further treatment or hospitalization of Duhon is appropriate because: 1) Duhon’s mental disabilities are permanent; and 2) Duhon does not pose a “substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to property of another” within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 4246.

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