This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







State of Minnesota,





Mark K. Buchert,




Filed May 23, 2006

Klaphake, Judge


Lyon County District Court

File No. K0-05-03


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and


Richard R. Maes, Lyon County Attorney, Tricia B. Zimmer, Assistant County Attorney, 607 West Main Street, Marshall, MN  56258 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ngoc Lan Nguyen, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Harten, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Mark K. Buchert challenges a pretrial order finding him incompetent to stand trial following a rule 20 examination, suspending criminal proceedings, directing civil commitment proceedings, and denying his motion to dismiss underlying criminal charges of gross misdemeanor obstructing legal process under Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(2) (2004).  Appellant argues that the court erred in relying on the medical examiner’s report in ruling him incompetent when his in-court behavior did not raise any concerns about his competence.  Because we conclude that the record supports the district court’s order requesting the competency examination and its finding that appellant is incompetent, we affirm.


            A prosecutor who “has reason to doubt the competency of the defendant” may raise the issue of a defendant’s competency to the district court.  Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 2.  A person is incompetent to stand trial if the person is “mentally ill or mentally deficient so as to be incapable of understanding the criminal proceedings or participating in the defense.”  Id., subd. 1(2).  If the court questions a defendant’s competency under rule 20, it may order the defendant to be evaluated by an appointed examiner, and after finding the defendant to be incompetent to stand trial on a gross misdemeanor charge, may suspend criminal proceedings and initiate civil-commitment proceedings against the defendant.  Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subds. 2, 4(2)(a).  “The standard of proof in a competency hearing is a preponderance of the evidence.”  State v. Mills, 562 N.W.2d 276, 281 (Minn. 1997).  On appellate review of a competency determination, this court independently determines whether the district court drew proper inferences from the evidence of an individual’s competence to stand trial.  In re Welfare of D.D.N., 582 N.W.2d 278, 281 (Minn. 1998). 

            Appellant claims that the district court erroneously concluded that he was incompetent to stand trial based solely on the reported recommendation of Dr. Angela PetersonDr. Peterson, a licensed psychologist, conducted a 3-1/2 hour interview of appellant that included assessments of his mental status, competency, and criminal responsibility.  Dr. Peterson diagnosed appellant as having paranoid schizophrenia, alcohol dependence, and epilepsy, but she was unable to diagnose whether appellant had any personality disorders.  Dr. Peterson’s report also indicated that appellant has a history of mental problems and is a registered sex offender, and that at the time of the offense he was being treated for unspecified mental problems.  Along with the report, Dr. Peterson included a transcription of three bizarre and possibly threatening telephone calls that appellant made to her office following his evaluation. 

            With regard to appellant’s competence, Dr. Peterson concluded that appellant “demonstrated an impaired capacity to understand the charges against him and does not have the capacity to participate in his own defense at this time.”  She also concluded that appellant “was laboring under such a defect of reason as not to know the nature of the act constituting the offense for which he is charged, or that it was wrong.”  Specifically, Dr. Peterson concluded that appellant has “impaired” capacity to think about the legal system, that he used legal terms in the wrong context, and that he had a very limited understanding of the roles of the attorneys and judge.  He also “displayed an impaired capacity to seek, identify, weigh, and balance more-relevant and less-relevant information, and could not use this data to make rational decisions about his own case.”  Appellant stated to Dr. Peterson that he believed his attorney was actually working for the prosecution because the attorney went into a room together with the prosecutor and the judge.

            Appellant argues that the report, which he claims was based in part on his inability to remember what occurred on the date of the alleged offense, was the only evidence that the court relied upon in making its competency determination and that other record evidence supports a finding of competency.  This characterization of the record is not accurate.  The record here is devoid of the usual in-court conduct on the part of the defendant that would support a rule 20 competency concern.  See, e.g., Shoen v. State, 648 N.W.2d 228, 230 (Minn. 2002) (enumerating types of in-court conduct that would suggest necessity of Rule 20 psychological evaluation).  But in moving for the rule 20 evaluation, the state alleged, and the defense did not deny, that appellant had made harassing and threatening phone calls and sent letters to potential trial witnesses.  Dr. Peterson’s report and this other evidence support a finding that appellant is incompetent.  See In re Matter of Butler, 379 N.W.2d 233, 235 (Minn. App. 1985) (finding of incompetence supported by professional opinion of licensed consulting psychologist and court’s evaluation of testimony of defendant).  Finally, we note that the finding of incompetence is further supported by the threatening telephone contacts with Dr. Peterson and an incoherent letter that appellant later sent to the district court.  Under these circumstances, the record amply supports both the need for appellant’s competency evaluation and the determination that appellant is incompetent to stand trial. 


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.