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The State of New Hampshire
v.
Dana Champagne

SUPREME COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

August 16, 1985

Appeal from Hillsborough County.
[ N.H. Page 267 ][ A.2d Page 1243 ] The Superior Court (Pappagianis, J.) transferred the following questions, with rulings, to this court pursuant to RSA 491:17 and Supreme Court Rule 8: (1) whether the record in the case [ N.H. Page 268 ] thus far supports the court's ruling that the defendant is competent to stand trial; and (2) whether a finding that a defendant is competent to stand trial requires a finding, as a matter of law, that he is also competent to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
The court also transferred a number of questions without rulings relating to the ability of the guardian ad litem to plead for the defendant and the need for another competency hearing after the decision of this court. Sup. Ct. R. 9. For the reasons which follow, we answer the first question in the negative and reverse the court's ruling that the defendant was competent to stand trial. We answer the second question in the affirmative and affirm the court's ruling that the defendant was incompetent to enter a plea. Because of our disposition of the questions transferred with rulings, we will not address the questions transferred without rulings.
The defendant, Dana Champagne, was indicted on October 4, 1983, for second degree murder in the stabbing deaths of his parents. On that date he was admitted to the forensic unit at the New Hampshire Hospital for stabilization of his mental condition.
Between 1973 and 1983 the defendant had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals on seven occasions. He is psychotic, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and has been operating under the same active delusional system for ten or twelve years. These delusions revolve around a theory that there are people, whom he calls "flesh eaters", who catch and sell and eat other people. It was on the belief that his parents were among this group, and that God had ordered him to do so, that the defendant killed them. The defendant sees the "mark of the beast" on the Pope, President Reagan and others.
On March 13, 1984, a hearing was held before the Court (Flynn, J.) to determine the defendant's competency to stand trial. Dr. Edward L. Rowan, testifying for the State, gave the opinion that, while he believed the defendant was competent when [ A.2d Page 1244 ] he interviewed him on December 15, 1983, he was not sure whether the defendant currently had a rational understanding of the proceedings. Dr. Paul Emery, a forensic psychiatrist, testified that, at the State's request, he had examined the defendant. Although he had concluded on February 2, 1984, that the defendant was competent, he now believed the defendant was incompetent because he was not rational. The court found the defendant incompetent to stand trial and ordered him committed to New Hampshire Hospital for the purpose of treatment directed towards his becoming competent. The court also suspended the criminal proceedings until May of 1984, to which the defendant excepted and asserted his right to a speedy trial.
A second competency hearing was held on May 15, 1984, before Dalianis, J. Dr. Rowan testified that he believed the defendant was [ N.H. Page 269 ] now competent to stand trial. He based this opinion largely on the fact that the defendant was currently taking antipsychotic medication administered by the hospital to enable him to control his own thoughts. Also greatly influencing Dr. Rowan's opinion were recent statements by the defendant to the effect that, if he were to be found incompetent, he would be committed to the Brown Building at the New Hampshire Hospital, where civil committees are housed and where security is less restrictive than at the forensic unit.
Dr. Emery testified on behalf of the defense, although he had been retained in the case by the State. He had spoken with the defendant for thirty-five minutes the previous night and concluded that his mental condition was the same as in March and that he remained incompetent. Although agreeing with Dr. Rowan that the defendant has, at times, a limited factual understanding of the proceedings, Dr. Emery believed the defendant lacked a rational understanding due to his active delusional system. The defendant, he testified, is liable at any time to retract his apparent factual understanding and, under his delusions, change his view of the actual nature of the proceedings. This, according to Dr. Emery, also prevents the defendant from rationally consulting with his attorney, as does the looseness of his thinking. Dr. Emery based these conclusions on the length of his interview with the defendant, stating that one might rely on the defendant's first answer to any given question "but as the interview progressed and at sufficient length, you get comments that are the opposite because there is no rational basis." Although Dr. Emery admitted that the defendant may have an interest, as most people would, in going to the Brown Building rather than being criminally committed, he would not agree that the defendant manipulates his psychosis to further that intent. On May 17, 1984, Dalianis, J. ruled that the defendant was competent to stand trial.
On May 31, 1984, the third and final hearing on the defendant's competency was held before Pappagianis, J. Dr. Rowan and Dr. Emery again testified for the State and for the defendant, respectively. Their testimony remained largely unchanged from the previous hearing. Dr. Rowan again stated that in his opinion the defendant was competent. He based this opinion on a fifteen-minute conversation with the defendant that morning, during which the defendant communicated a factual understanding of the principals in the trial and their respective roles.
Dr. Emery again testified that in his opinion the defendant was incompetent, based on a forty-five minute interview a few days before. He maintained his belief that the defendant lacked both a rational understanding of the proceedings and an ability to consult rationally or reasonably with his attorneys.
[ N.H. Page 270 ] The defendant himself testified for the first time at the May 31 hearing. Although he understood that the jury hears the facts and is "supposed to prove" his guilt or innocence, he did not know if there would be flesh eaters on the jury, but if there were, they would know that he was [ A.2d Page 1245 ] supposed to destroy them. As for his understanding of the role of the judge, Dana saw the "mark of the beast" on the judge and stated his belief (albeit a minority view) that judges "go back to the spirits of devils and they tell them what to do. Lucifer is their boss." As for his lawyers, Dana did not know whether or not they are among the people who do things that are "beyond the deeds of wickedness."
On September 4, 1984, the court ruled that Dana was competent to stand trial but incompetent to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The court then directed that counsel prepare an interlocutory appeal regarding its rulings and also formulated questions without ruling for consideration by this court.
A criminal defendant has a constitutional right not to be tried if he is legally incompetent. Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378 (1966); State v. Bertrand, 123 N.H. 719, 724-25, 465 A.2d 912, 914 (1983). "[T]he mental competence of an accused must be regarded as an absolute basic condition of ...

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