This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Douglas E. Haselow,
Filed May 22, 2001
Lake County District Court
File No. K298195
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Bruce L. Anderson, Lake County Attorney, Lake County Courthouse, 601 Third Avenue, Two Harbors, MN 55616 (for respondent)
Steven J. Meshbesher, Rory Patrick Durkin, Meshbesher & Associates, P.A., 225 Lumber Exchange Building, 10 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
After he was convicted of first-degree assault and making terroristic threats, appellant Douglas Edward Haselow petitioned for postconviction relief, alleging that his procedural due process rights were violated because neither the trial court, the prosecutor, nor his attorney requested an examination to determine his competency under Minn. R. Civ. P. 20. Appellant also alleged that his attorney’s representation was ineffective because he failed to request a rule 20 examination.
The postconviction court held a two-day evidentiary hearing and heard testimony from appellant, his father, a treating psychiatrist, and appellant’s trial attorney. The court issued an order denying appellant’s petition. Because sufficient evidence exists to support the postconviction court’s decision, we affirm.
In Minnesota, a defendant is prohibited from entering a plea or being tried for any offense if he
(1)lacks sufficient ability to consult with a reasonable degree of rational understanding with defense counsel; or
(2)is mentally ill or mentally deficient so as to be incapable of understanding the proceedings or participating in the defense.
Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 1. If the prosecutor, defense attorney, or trial court “ha[ve] reason to doubt the competency of the defendant,” they are obligated to raise the issue, even over the defendant’s objection. Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 2.
A defendant seeking postconviction relief for violation of due process and effective assistance of counsel rights due to his mental incompetence to stand trial must present evidence to independently support or corroborate his allegations. See Fox v. State, 474 N.W.2d 821, 825-27 (Minn. 1991). The defendant need not prove that he was, in fact, incompetent to stand trial; rather, he must present evidence to support a “sufficient doubt” of his competency. See State v. Bauer, 310 Minn. 103, 115, 245 N.W.2d 848, 855 (1976).
In determining whether to inquire further into a defendant’s competency to stand trial, the court considers evidence of the defendant’s irrational behavior, his demeanor at trial, and any prior medical opinion on competence are all relevant. State v. Camacho, 561 N.W.2d 160, 172 (Minn. 1997). Although even one of these visible signs may indicate the need for further inquiry by a trial court, defense attorney, or prosecutor, the “question is often a difficult one in which a wide range of manifestations and subtle nuances are implicated.” Bauer, 310 Minn. at 115, 245 N.W.2d at 855 (quotation omitted).
Appellant argues that the following facts, some of which were known by his attorney and by the prosecutor, should have cast “sufficient doubt” on his competency to stand trial and warranted a rule 20 examination: (1) he attempted to commit suicide in October 1998 by tying a rope around his neck, but was unsuccessful because the rope broke; (2) he was diagnosed at that time with severe depression; (3) he was hospitalized between October 1998 and November 1998, first in the mental health unit and then the chemical dependency unit; (4) he suffers from cognitive dysfunction related to two head injuries in 1991 and 1996, which impaired his ability to concentrate and understand; (5) he was taking numerous medications at the time of trial in February 1999; and (6) his father testified during the postconviction hearing that appellant was “foggy” during trial.
The state counters that this evidence fails to cast sufficient doubt on appellant’s competency to stand trial, because (1) his suicide attempt occurred four months before the February 1999 trial; (2) appellant’s psychiatrist stated that when appellant was discharged in November 1998, he was “relatively stable”; (3) the psychiatrist further admitted that he had no further contact with appellant after his discharge and that he had no information on appellant’s mental condition at the time of trial in February 1999; (4) the psychiatrist refused to state that a rule 20 examination was warranted, and could only testify that such an examination “could have been helpful”; (5) appellant’s attorney testified that he and appellant met several times before trial and had several discussions about trial strategies; (6) the attorney testified that he and appellant specifically discussed the possibility of requesting a rule 20 examination, but that appellant did not want to undergo such an evaluation and that his attorney did not believe appellant needed a rule 20 evaluation; and (7) nothing in the trial transcript suggests that appellant was irrational or that he did not understand the proceedings.
The fact that a defendant attempted suicide several months before trial or that he was taking medication during trial does not necessarily render him unable to understand and participate in his defense. See, e.g., Fox, 474 N.W.2d at 825-26 (affirming denial of postconviction relief where defendant failed to prove that antipsychotic medication taken before and after trial rendered him incompetent to stand trial); DeGidio v. State, 289 N.W.2d 135, 136 (Minn. 1980) (affirming denial of postconviction relief, where defendant failed to prove that medication taken at time of trial rendered him incompetent to assist in own defense); State v. Hulin, 412 N.W.2d 333, 337-39 (Minn. App. 1987) (affirming trial court’s conclusion that defendant was competent to be sentenced, even though he had attempted suicide after trial and suffered brain damage, because evidence showed that he still had ability to understand and participate in proceedings), review denied (Minn. Nov. 13, 1987). Rather, something more must be shown to establish incompetence.
Here, appellant did not exhibit any irrational behavior during trial. The same district court judge presided over both appellant’s trial and postconviction proceedings and had the opportunity to observe appellant and his interactions with his attorney. Because appellant appeared to all involved to have the ability to understand and participate in his defense during trial and because he failed to present any medical opinion or other evidence to rebut this appearance of rationality, we affirm the denial of his petition for postconviction relief.
A defendant seeking a new trial based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must
affirmatively prove both that counsel’s representation “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness” and “that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding could have been different.”
Gates v. State, 398 N.W.2d 558, 561 (Minn. 1987) (quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 2068 (1984)). An attorney provides effective representation if he “exercise[s] the customary skill and diligence that a reasonably competent attorney would exercise under similar circumstances.” Marhoun v. State, 451 N.W.2d 323, 328 (Minn. 1990) (citation omitted).
Appellant’s attorney testified at the postconviction hearing that he has been practicing law for 27 years. As already discussed, appellant’s attorney believed that appellant’s demeanor and behavior at trial were normal. He further believed that appellant understood the proceedings and was able to participate in his defense. Based upon his dealings with appellant, the attorney testified that he did not believe that appellant needed a medical examination to determine his competency to stand trial. Absent some other evidence to prove that his attorney’s representation was deficient or lacking, appellant has failed to prove that his attorney’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.
The decision of the postconviction court is affirmed.