484 U.S. 874 (1987)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

BROWN v. DODD , 484 U.S. 874 (1987)

484 U.S. 874

James Willie BROWN
W.J. DODD, Sheriff.
No. 86-6923

Supreme Court of the United States

October 5, 1987

Rehearing Denied Dec. 7, 1987.

See 484 U.S. 982.

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

I continue to believe that the death penalty is in all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 231, 2973 (1976) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting). But even if I did not hold this view, I would grant the petition for writ of certiorari in order to consider whether a defendant evaluated for competency by a state- appointed examiner has a due process right to an examiner whose qualifications and procedures meet minimal professional standards. The trial court failed to consider this question, and its conclusory order raises doubt as to whether the strictures of due process were met in this case.

Page 484 U.S. 874 , 875


Petitioner James Willie Brown has a 20-year history of severe mental illness. When he was arrested for murder in 1975, petitioner already had been institutionalized on three prior occasions. Over the next six years, petitioner was continually adjudged incompetent to stand trial. Petitioner spent most of that time institutionalized at Central State Hospital, where he was consistently diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. In 1977, the hospital reported that petitioner was competent to stand trial, but petitioner's mental condition deteriorated after he was transferred to the local jail and on the joint motion of the State and his counsel, he was recommitted to Central State as incompetent. Petitioner remained at Central State until 1980, when a hospital doctor again determined petitioner could stand trial. Although petitioner's doctors had noted his history of aggravated illness during periods of incarceration and had recommended that he be kept at the hospital until just before trial, petitioner was jailed until his competency trial in April 1981. During this time, a physician at the jail examined petitioner and once again found him incompetent; petitioner's counsel was never informed of this evaluation.

Petitioner filed a demand for speedy trial early in 1981, and a competency trial was scheduled before a special jury. The morning of trial, the court appointed Lewis Collins to evaluate petitioner's competency. Collins had received his Ph.D. from the Georgia State University only 10 days before. He was not a licensed psychologist, and in fact later failed the state licensing examination twice. He had received no formal training in conducting competency evaluations. Collins' entire evaluation of petitioner's competency consisted of one 20- minute interview. Collins did not talk to any of the doctors who previously had examined petitioner, he performed no psychological testing, and the only record he examined was a short discharge summary from Central State. From this meager examination, Collins concluded that petitioner was competent to stand trial. The jury agreed, and three months later petitioner was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

At the instant state habeas proceeding, a number of experts testified that Collins' qualifications and examination for competency were substandard. The trial court nevertheless determined without explanation that Collins "was qualified by his education and experience to give an opinion as to the sanity of the Peti- [484 U.S. 874 , 876]

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.