District Court, Provo Department The Honorable James R.
Taylor No. 141402588
Margaret P. Lindsay and Matthew R. Morrise, Attorneys for
D. Reyes and Kris C. Leonard, Attorneys for Appellee
Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Michele M. Christiansen and Ryan M. Harris concurred.
Marcus Wayne Parry appeals the district court's order
finding him competent to stand trial. We affirm.
The State brought criminal charges against Parry for rape,
tampering with a witness, and obstructing justice.
Parry's counsel then filed a petition for inquiry into
Parry's competency to proceed in the matter of the
pending criminal charges. After determining that the petition
raised a "bona fide doubt as to [Parry's] competency
to stand trial, " the district court granted the
petition and ordered that mental health experts examine
Parry. One expert opined that Parry was incompetent to stand
trial but had a "substantial probability" of
becoming competent "in the foreseeable future." A
second expert similarly opined that Parry was not competent
to stand trial but disagreed about the prospect of restoring
Parry's competency, concluding it was not substantially
probable that his competency would be restored "in the
Based on these two mental health evaluations, the State
stipulated that Parry was not competent to proceed.
Consistent with that stipulation, the district court found
that Parry was mentally ill and ordered that he be committed
to the care of the Utah Department of Human Services for no
more than eighteen months or until stabilized, with treatment
aimed at restoring his competency. While Parry spent time in
county jail awaiting admission to the state hospital,
underwent another evaluation. That evaluation, in which the
examiner noted that he suspected Parry of malingering,
caused the State to request that the district court reopen
the competency determination and hold an evidentiary hearing
on the matter. The court agreed to reassess Parry's
competency and ordered further evaluation. Around that time,
Parry was finally admitted to the state hospital.
Several mental health experts ultimately examined Parry.
Although they all agreed that Parry had some level of mental
or intellectual impairment, they rendered diverging opinions
regarding his competency. Two experts opined that Parry was
incompetent to stand trial with a substantial
probability that he may become competent in the foreseeable
future. Another expert opined that Parry was incompetent but
without a substantial probability of being restored
to competency in the near future. Finally, the last expert,
Dr. Baldwin, opined that Parry was competent to proceed.
Dr. Baldwin supported her opinion with her observations that,
while Parry presented with borderline intellectual
functioning and characteristics consistent with a personality
disorder, Parry demonstrated strengths in all
competence-related areas. Dr. Baldwin further observed that
Parry's formal testing and "behavioral/clinical
observations are all highly consistent with a malingering
presentation." After concluding that Parry was competent
to proceed, Dr. Baldwin made recommendations to
"maximize [Parry's] functioning in court, "
given his intellectual impairment.
Following a two-day competency hearing, the district court
found that Dr. Baldwin's report was "complete and
well reasoned, " and adopted it "in its entirety,
by reference within [the court's] findings." The
court further found that Parry "suffers from borderline
or low average intellectual functioning which is complicated
by learning disabilities." Despite those deficiencies,
however, the court found that Parry understood that he was
"accused of inappropriate conduct with the alleged
victim and that the conduct, if proven, is wrong and could
subject him to significant punishment including long term
incarceration." The court also found that Parry
preferred to be held at the Utah State Hospital rather than
at the jail and that, in connection with his "definite
view of where he want[ed] to be, " Parry had
"manifested a desire to manipulate the outcome of the
court proceedings to obtain that desired result." The
court further found that Parry had engaged in behaviors to
that end, including behaving aggressively and intentionally
modifying answers to psychological testing. In addition, the
court found that, when at the forensic unit at the hospital,
Parry "appeared to exaggerate his lack of knowledge
about his legal case and the criminal justice system."
The court characterized Parry's behavior as
The district court then turned to the statutory definition of
"incompetent to proceed": a defendant is
incompetent if he has either (1) the "inability to have
a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings
against him or of the punishment specified for the offense
charged, " or (2) the "inability to consult with
his counsel and to participate in the proceedings against him
with a reasonable degree of rational understanding."
Utah Code Ann. § 77-15-2 (LexisNexis 2012).
As to the first consideration, the district court stated at
the hearing that Parry had the "capacity to understand
the nature of the proceedings, " knew he was "in a
lot of trouble, " and recognized that "the
punishment [could] be quite severe." The judge
concluded, "I am not able to find that he has a mental
condition that prevents him from having a rational and
factual understanding of the proceedings or the
punishment." The district court's written findings
similarly indicate that Parry understood that if convicted,
he faced "significant punishment including long term
incarceration." The court also found that Parry's
"attempted manipulation" demonstrated that he
understood "the adversarial nature of criminal court
As to the second consideration, which the court viewed as
"a tougher question, " the district court explained
at the hearing that Parry "de-compensates when he is
confronted by stress" and that that decompensation
"makes it harder for him to
participate." But because "harder does not mean
impossible, " the judge concluded, "I don't
find to a preponderance that he's incapable of consulting
with Counsel or participating . . . in the case." The
judge continued: "We will have to make some
accommodations to allow that to happen. We will have to go at
a different pace. We may have to take . . . extra time, allow
for extra procedures. We'll figure it out as we go . . .
." The court's written decision explained that
Parry's attempted manipulation of his competency
evaluation demonstrated that he "is able to engage in
reasoned choices of legal strategy." The court also
found that Parry "suffers from some degree of impairment
and will be more difficult when confronted with unusual or
stressful circumstances" but stated that it was
nevertheless satisfied that "if appropriate
accommodations are made that [Parry] is capable of
communicating with his counsel, engaging in reasoned
decisions, maintaining proper affect during court proceedings
and giving relevant testimony, if necessary."
The district court ultimately determined that Parry was
competent and ordered that the criminal case would proceed.
The judge explained at the hearing, "[M]y conclusion is
that based upon the evidence that's been presented and
the testimony, I find to a preponderance that he is competent
to proceed." Similarly, the court's written decision
stated, "To a preponderance of the evidence the Court
concludes that Mr. Parry is presently competent to
proceed." Parry now appeals in accordance with Utah Code
AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW
While not challenging the district court's factual
findings on appeal, Parry raises three claims of error in its
determination that, at the time of its ruling, Parry was
competent to proceed. First, Parry contends that the district
court "applied the opposite and incorrect standard"
regarding the burden of proof. Second, Parry contends that
the district court failed to find that he had a rational
understanding of the full extent of the possible punishments
related to his specific charges and that the court therefore
improperly concluded that Parry had "a rational and
factual understanding of the punishment he faces."
Third, he contends that the court "did not properly
conclude that [he could] consult ...