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State v. Sanders

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

September 4, 2018

STATE OF MARYLAND
v.
TRAVIS SANDERS

          Circuit Court for Baltimore County Case No. 03-K-13-005644

          Woodward, C.J., Arthur, Reed, JJ.

          OPINION

          REED, J.

         This case originated in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, where Travis E. Sanders (hereinafter the "appellee") was charged with sex abuse of a minor, sex offense in the second degree, sex offense in the third degree, and second degree assault in connection with alleged events that occurred between June 1 and August 20, 2013. After pleading not guilty and, in the alternative, not criminally responsible, the appellee was committed to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (hereinafter the "Health Department") on May 5, 2014, for an assessment of his competency to stand trial. That assessment resulted in a finding of incompetency, and the circuit court held a hearing on December 17, 2015, to review that determination. Following the hearing, the court ruled that the appellee remained incompetent to stand trial and was "eligible" for Developmental Disabilities Administration ("DDA") services.

         The Health Department presents two questions for our review on appeal, which we rephrase:[1]

1. Did the circuit court exceed its statutory authority when it ordered that the appellee "is eligible for DDA services"?
2. Was the circuit court's decision regarding the appellee's eligibility for DDA services supported by sufficient evidence?

         For the following reasons, we answer the first question in the affirmative. Therefore, we need not consider the second question and shall modify the judgment of the circuit court.

         Factual And Procedural Background

         On September 30, 2013, the appellee was indicted on various sex offenses allegedly committed between June 1 and August 20 of that year. He entered a plea of not guilty and, in the alternative, not criminally responsible to each count on May 5, 2014. On that same day, citing "possible mental retardation, "[2] the circuit court committed the appellee to the Health Department for an examination as to his competency to stand trial.

         In a report dated June 5, 2014, Stephen W. Siebert, M.D., M.P.H., and Erik Lane, Psy.D., both of the Health Department, concluded that the appellee was not competent to stand trial. In an addendum to that report, Drs. Siebert and Lane also concluded that the appellee was a danger to himself or others. Based on these conclusions, on July 23, 2014, the circuit court ordered that the appellee be committed to the Health Department until it was "satisfied that [he] is no longer incompetent to stand trial or is no longer, by reason of a mental disorder . . ., a danger to self or the person or property of another." The Health Department subsequently admitted the appellee to Spring Grove Hospital Center (hereinafter "Spring Grove"), where he remained for care and treatment from July 29, 2014, through December 17, 2015.

         During the approximately thirteen months following the appellee's admission to Spring Grove, the court received four additional reports pertaining to the appellee's competency to stand trial. Three of these reports-a January 7, 2015, report by Christopher M. Wilk, M.D., a Health Department physician; a May 1, 2015, report by Melissa Blackwell, Psy.D., a Health Department consultant; and a September 2, 2015, report by Bevin Merles, Psy.D., a Health Department psychologist-concluded with a finding that the appellee was competent to stand trial. Only Beverlie Mormile, Psy.D., a psychologist hired by the Office of the Public Defender, in a report dated July 9, 2015, found that the appellee was not competent to stand trial.

         In addition, the court received a report by Eric Fielding, Ph.D., dated June 26, 2015. Unlike the others, Dr. Fielding's report did not address the appellee's competency to stand trial. Instead, pursuant to a court order of January 9, 2015, its purpose was to "clarify [the appellee's] diagnosis for treatment and discharge planning purposes."

         In February 2015, the appellee, with the assistance of Denise Leite-Finken, a social worker at Spring Grove, filed an application for DDA services. In a determination letter dated March 30, 2015, the DDA informed the appellee that his application had been denied because he did not meet all the criteria for "developmental disability," and thus, did not meet the statutory criteria for DDA services.

         On December 17, 2015, the circuit court held a hearing to review its July 2014 determination that the appellee was not competent to stand trial. After the hearing, the court issued the following written order:

         ORDER

         It is this 17th day of Dec[ember], 2015, by the Circuit Court for Baltimore County ORDERED:

That upon consideration of the report of Eric Fielding, Ph. D., Spring Grove State Hospital Department of Clinical Psychology dated June 26, 2015 and the report of Beverli [sic] Mormile, Psy.D. dated July 9, 2015, it is the finding of the Court that the Defendant Travis Eugene Sanders, having been charged with the commission of a crime, remains incompetent to stand trial because of an intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) and remains a danger to self or the person or property of another, and it is further:
ORDERED, the defendant Travis Eugene Sanders is committed to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for placement in a Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) facility until the Court is satisfied the Defendant is no longer incompetent to stand trial or is no longer a danger to self or the person or property of others, and it is further
ORDERED that the defendant Travis Eugene Sanders is eligible for DDA services, and it is further
ORDERED that immediately upon receipt of this order, Spring Grove State Hospital Center shall transport the defendant Travis Eugene Sanders to the Developmental Disabilities Administration facility that the Department designates.

(Emphasis added).

         On January 19, 2016, the Health Department filed a timely notice of appeal to this Court.

         Discussion

         I. Eligibility for DDA Services

         A. ...


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