VICKERS v. ARIZONAAnnotate this Case
497 U.S. 1033 (1990)
U.S. Supreme Court
VICKERS v. ARIZONA , 497 U.S. 1033 (1990)
497 U.S. 1033
Robert Wayne VICKERS, petitioner
ARIZONA. No. 88-7629.
Case below, 138 Ariz. 450, 675 P.2d 710; 159 Ariz. 532, 768 P.2d 1177.
June 28, 1990. The petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is denied.
Rehearing Denied Aug. 30, 1990.
See 497 U.S. 1050.
Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.
Adhering to my view that the death penalty is in all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 231, 2973, 49 L. Ed.2d 859 (1976) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting), I would grant the petition for certiorari and vacate the death penalty in this case. Even if I did not hold this view, I would grant the petition to decide whether the Constitution requires a State to provide an indigent defendant access to diagnostic testing necessary to prepare an effective defense based on his mental condition, when the defendant demonstrates that his sanity at the time of the offense will be a significant issue at trial. I believe that our decision in Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), compels us to answer that question in the affirmative.
Petitioner Robert Wayne Vickers was convicted of murdering a prison inmate and sentenced to death. His only defense at trial was insanity. Specifically, Vickers claimed that he suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, a brain disorder that can cause violent behavior and render a person unable to appreciate the nature and wrongfulness of his acts. Vickers' court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Bindelglas, determined, after a lengthy interview and an exhaustive review of Vickers' medical records, that Vickers suffered from "definite dissociative reactions" possibly due to temporal lobe epilepsy. App. to Pet. for Cert. B-7. Dr. Bindelglas based his opinion on Vickers' history of cerebral trauma and seizures, neurological deficits reported by a psychologist when Vickers was a child, improvement in Vickers' condition when he was placed on anti-convulsive and psychotropic medications and
reversion when he was taken off the medication, and an abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG) performed four years before the murder. Ibid. Dr. Bindelglas further opined that Vickers probably was in a dissociative state at the time of the offense, which made him "incapable of rendering any judgement and . . . unable to know right from wrong." Id., at B-9. Dr. Bindelglas stated that he could not make a definitive diagnosis, however, without certain neuropsychological testing. Ibid.
Based on Dr. Bindelglas' recommendation, petitioner requested that the trial court provide access to diagnostic testing. Petitioner included with his request an affidavit from a second psychiatrist, Dr. David Bear, who, after reviewing petitioner's records and examining him for five hours, agreed that there was a "substantial possibility" that Vickers suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, which may have impaired his ability to " appreciate the quality and nature of the act and its wrongfulness." Id., at C-4, C-9. Dr. Bear also stated that diagnostic testing, including a careful neurological examination and multiple EEG's, was necessary "before professional judgment can be rendered regarding Mr. Vickers' mental state at the time of the subject offense." In addition, the state's own expert, Dr. Maier Tuchler, testified at petitioner's competency hearing that diagnostic testing was necessary to determine definitely whether Vickers suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy. Finally, petitioner supplied the court with the affidavits of two other psychiatrists who testified that strong evidence indicated that Vickers suffered from a mental disorder which impaired his capacity to make rational judgments, but that diagnostic testing was necessary before a firm conclusion could be reached . App. to Pet. for Cert. D and E.
Despite the consensus of these medical experts that diagnostic testing was necessary, the court denied petitioner's request. The court relied on a two-paragraph letter from a psychiatrist appointed at the State's request, Dr. William Masland. Dr. Masland concluded, on the basis of a quick review of petitioner's medical records, conversations with prisoners and prison staff, and a brief interview with Vickers, that " there is absolutely nothing to suggest that this man is epileptic" and that "further diagnostic testing . . . would be totally superfluous." Id., at F. The court refused to reconsider its order after receiving additional affidavits from Dr. Bindelglas and Dr. Bear and two neurologists [497 U.S. 1033 , 1035]