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United States v. Alden

decided: August 21, 1984.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 82 CR 40053 -- James L. Foreman, Judge.

Posner and Flaum, Circuit Judges, and Nichols, Senior Circuit Judge.*fn*

Author: Flaum

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

This is a consolidated appeal following a jury trial in which the defendants were found guilty of attempting to escape from a federal penitentiary. The defendants claim that they were improperly denied the psychiatric assistance that they needed to prepare insanity defenses, and that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on their insanity defenses. We disagree, and we affirm the defendants' convictions.


Defendants Alden and Phillips were inmates at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. At approximately 9:30 p.m. on January 13, 1982, they were apprehended lying on the ground near the fence that surrounds the penitentiary. There was a hole in the fence, and near the hole prison guards found two makeshift hacksaws, some gloves, and a t-shirt. The defendants were dressed in white, apparently to camouflage themselves against the more than six inches of snow that was on the ground. An investigation later revealed that several windows in the defendants' housing unit had been cut, and that clothing had been stuffed in the defendant Alden's bed to create the appearance that he was lying there.

On November 18, 1982, the defendants were indicted in federal district court and charged with attempting to escape from the Marion penitentiary in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 751(a)(1982). Shortly thereafter, each defendant gave notice that he intended to defend against this charge by claiming that he was insane at the time of the escape attempt. On December 15, 1982, each defendant requested the court to permit him to obtain an expert psychiatric witness to assist in his defense, as is permitted by 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(e)(1982). Two weeks later, the court and the parties agreed that each defendant would undergo a psychiatric examination at the federal penitentiary in Marion by qualified psychiatrists from the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. The purpose of these examinations was to determine whether the defendants were sane at the time of their escape attempt and whether they were competent to stand trial. The examinations were conducted in January 1983, and in each case the psychiatrist concluded that the defendant was both sane at the time of the escape attempt and competent to stand trial.*fn1

The defendants then moved the court again for psychiatric assistance. On March 16, 1983, the court held separate ex parte hearings for the defendants to determine their need for psychiatric assistance, as required by section 3006A(e). At his hearing, the defendant Alden testified that he wished to present a defense of temporary insanity. He stated that at the time of his escape attempt his marriage and family life were deteriorating and as a result he was "anxious" and "depressed," and experiencing "mood swings." Tr. at 388-89. He also stated that his only previous psychological counseling was with a prison psychologist that he had "developed a friendship with" more than five years earlier at another prison. Tr. at 393.

At his hearing, the defendant Phillips testified that he believed he was God. He also stated that he was a self-taught hypnotherapist, that he had been hospitalized for dizzy spells many years earlier while he was in the Marine Corps, and that two of his cousins were mentally retarded and a third had been hospitalized as criminally insane. He stated further that he had attempted to escape from prison because "I can't help myself." Tr. at 406. He also indicated that his only previous psychological counseling was a visit several years earlier to a prison psychologist at a prison in Atlanta for treatment of possible symptoms of stress. He made only one visit to this psychologist because he was transferred to Marion after an attempted escape from the Atlanta prison.

After hearing the testimony at these ex parte hearings, the court below denied both defendants' requests for psychiatric assistance. The court gave its reasons as follows:

The Court believes that a "reasonable showing of need" has not been demonstrated. First, the results of the psychiatric examinations of Alden and Phillips . . . ordered by this Court, conclude that each was sane at the time of the alleged offense, and is competent to stand trial. These results alone give the Court serious reservations about ordering further psychiatric examination. Second, the Court believes that the assertion of the insanity defense to a charge typically involving long and detailed planning -- escape from U.S.P. Marion -- is immediately suspect. Third, and most importantly, the ex parte hearings of each defendant's request, in the Court's view, yielded no indication that insanity defenses are warranted here. The evidence presented at the ex parte hearing makes it abundantly clear to the Court that the qualified privileges of Section 3006A would be abused if further examinations are ordered.

Memorandum and Order, Crim. No. 82-40053 (S.D. Ill. April 4, 1983).

At the defendants' consolidated trial, they each attempted to establish a defense of insanity without any expert testimony. Alden had two of his fellow inmates testify on his behalf. Inmate Artie Dufur testified that he had lived in the same housing unit as Alden from June 1980 until July 1981 and that they had become close friends. Dufur described Alden's demeanor during this period as "easygoing" and "cheerful," and stated that he did not appear to have any mental or emotional problems at this time. Tr. at 217. Between July 1981 and January 1982, the time of the escape attempt, Dufur had some contact with Alden on eight to twelve occasions. He stated that during this time Alden often appeared to be withdrawn, anxious, and paranoid, and that his behavior was "erratic." Tr. at 220-21. Inmate Garvin Dale White testified that he saw Alden shortly after Alden was captured attempting to escape, and that for several hours Alden was "ranting and raving and screaming" about his wife and family. Tr. at 230-32. White also testified that he saw Alden after January 1982 on a few occasions and that he appeared "normal." Tr. at 236.

Alden himself testified about his mental state at the time of his escape attempt. He explained about his deteriorating family situation, and about the guilt, anxiety, and depression that this had caused him. He stated that he had been "obsessed with getting out of that prison," Tr. at 254, and that he could not control his conduct on the night of his escape attempt. He also stated that he had read some psychology books and that he believed that he ...

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