497 U.S. 1016 (1990)

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U.S. Supreme Court

HAMILTON v. TEXAS , 497 U.S. 1016 (1990)

497 U.S. 1016

Alexzene HAMILTON, as Natural Mother and Next Friend to James Edward Smith, petitioner
TEXAS. No. 89-7838 (A-917).

Alexzene HAMILTON, as Natural Mother and Next Friend to James Edward Smith, petitioner
James A. COLLINS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division. No. 89-7842 (A-921).

Case below, Tex.Cr.App., Smith v. State, 744 S.W.2d 86.

On Applications for Stay.

June 26, 1990. The applications for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice WHITE and by him referred to the Court are denied.

Justice BRENNAN, with whom Justice MARSHALL joins, dissenting.

Tonight, for the second time within a month, see Demosthenes v. Baal, 495 U.S. 731 (1990), this Court permits a State to execute a prisoner who has waived further appeals on his behalf when serious doubts remain concerning his mental competence. I believe that we shirk our responsibility if we do not articulate standards by which the adequacy of procedures in state competency hearings may be judged. I would grant the petitions for certiorari and the corresponding applications for stay of execution. Indeed, four Members of this Court have voted to grant certiorari in this case, but because a stay cannot be entered without five votes, the-

Page 497 U.S. 1016 , 1017

execution cannot be halted. For the first time in recent memory, a man will be executed after the Court has decided to hear his claim. Cf. Watson v. Butler, 483 U.S. 1037, 1038, 7 ( 1987) (stay denied although four Justices voted to hold, rather than to grant, petition for certiorari).


In Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149 (1990), this Court held that "one necessary condition for 'next friend' standing in federal court is a showing by the proposed 'next friend' that the real party in interest is unable to litigate his own cause due to mental incapacity." Id. at 165. Although the Court noted that this prerequisite is not satisfied "where an evidentiary hearing shows that the defendant has given a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his right to proceed," ibid., we did not have occasion in that case to decide the procedures that are required when a state court determines that a prisoner is competent to forgo further appeals in his case. We face that issue tonight.

Petitioner, the mother of condemned prisoner James Edward Smith, challenges the decision of the Texas courts, to which the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit have deferred, that Smith is competent to waive further appeal of his case. The state trial court held a hearing to determine Smith's competency, a hearing which seems to have been little more than a nonadversarial, ex parte chat among the trial judge, the prosecutor, and Smith. The hearing was scheduled without notice to Smith's mother and next friend, Ms. Alexzene Hamilton, despite the fact that Ms. Hamilton had appeared as petitioner on Smith's behalf as early as May 7, 1988. Indeed, it was upon her application that we granted a stay of execution in Hamilton v. Texas, 485 U.S. 1042 (1988). Smith was unrepresented by counsel; although the trial judge had arranged for an attorney to be present in the event that Smith wished to consult with him, the judge stated: "I'm not going to force a lawyer to represent you." After Smith indicated that he did not wish to speak with the attorney, that was the end of the matter. There was no cross-examination at the hearing. No evidence was received beyond the bare reports of a Harris County psychiatrist and a Harris County psychologist who did not perform psychological tests and who were not given access to several reports of the history of Smith's mental illness, includ- [497 U.S. 1016 , 1018]

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