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State v. Williamson

Superior Court of Delaware

November 28, 2017


          DATE SUBMITTED: October 27, 2017

         Decision After Competency Hearing - Defendant Remains Incompetent Delaware Psychiatric Center is Ordered to Treat Defendant in Order to Restore His Competency

          Melanie C. Withers, Esquire, and John W. Donahue, IV, Esquire, Deputy Attorneys General, Department of Justice, Georgetown, DE.

          Thomas A. Pedersen, Esquire, and Michael R. Abram, Esquire, Attorneys for Defendant.


          STOKES, J.

         This is my decision after the most recent proceedings addressing the competency of Ronald W. Williamson ("defendant" or "Williamson") to stand trial.[1] The State of Delaware ("the State") has conceded that no significant change in defendant's mental status has occurred which would support a conclusion by this Court that defendant now is competent to stand trial. Thus, this Court's previous conclusion that defendant is incompetent to stand trial stands. However, the recent proceedings did establish that defendant has not been treated for his Delusional Disorder despite this Court's previous direction that such treatment be administered. Because experts for both the State and defense outlined recognized medical standards regarding treatment for the Delusional Disorder from which defendant suffers, this decision includes directions concerning that treatment.

         Procedural History

         On June 26, 2011, Mark Anderson, Chief of Police, Greenwood, Delaware, arrived at the scene of a dispute. The dash-cam on the police vehicle, which was running when Chief Anderson arrived, recorded a man later determined to be Williamson. Williamson was holding a woman in a choke hold and had a hand gun in his other hand. Chief Anderson got out of his car and repeatedly ordered Williamson to drop his weapon. After a slight struggle with his victim, Williamson pointed the gun at her forehead and fired one shot. Williamson immediately dropped the gun and ran into a neighboring residence where he was arrested eight hours later after lengthy negotiations with police officers.

         The victim, Connie Breeding, died as a result of a single gun shot to the head. Defendant is charged with two counts of Murder First Degree and numerous additional crimes related to Connie Breeding's shooting death.

         Defendant quickly developed a fixed belief that Dean Johnson, Esquire, one of his previous defense attorneys, participated with the State in altering the police videotape that depicted the crime. The videotape is the central incriminating evidence against him. Defendant's belief that a conspiracy exists to convict him has expanded to include some psychiatrists and the Court. He also has extended delusions, which include alleged tampering with items besides the videotape, such as audio transcripts and personal documents defendant had while incarcerated.

         Initially, this Court found defendant competent to stand trial.[2] However, his then counsel sought a reevaluation and a second competency hearing was held on December 14, 2012.

         Testifying for the State at this December 14, 2012 hearing were Andrew W. Donahue, M.D. and Stephen Mechanick, M.D.[3] Dr. Donahue, a board-certified psychiatrist and a forensic psychiatrist, diagnosed defendant with a Delusional Disorder, Unspecified Type. He found defendant to be competent to stand trial. Stephen Mechanick, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist, found Williamson competent to stand trial. Dr. Mechanick diagnosed Williamson with a Delusional Disorder, Persecutory Type. Dr. Mechanick also concluded defendant was competent to stand trial.

         Susan E. Rushing, M.D., J.D., a forensic psychiatrist, testified for the defense at the first and second hearings. At the first hearing, she did not find defendant competent for a capital trial;[4]however, she did not have as firm of an opinion regarding his competency for standing trial on less serious cases. At the second hearing, she found Williamson to be incompetent for trial without any reservations. Her opinion at the second hearing resulted from additional information provided in her reevaluation and the fact that Williamson was more enthralled in his delusions that a jury would acquit him because of tampered evidence. Dr. Rushing agreed with Dr. Mechanick's opinion that defendant's belief about manufactured, tainted evidence is a delusion and could be classified under the psychotic disorder labeled Delusional Disorder.

         In its decision of January 23, 2013, [5] this Court concluded as follows. Williamson is not competent to stand trial. Defendant genuinely holds delusions about falsified evidence and systemic corruption. These are fixed false beliefs and are not manipulative attempts to avoid a murder conviction. These beliefs prevent him from cooperating and communicating with his attorneys. Defense lawyers must provide the best defense consistent with the client's direction. However, in this case, the delusions would infect the process and the trial would be a mockery of justice. The Court will not subject defendant to trial where his psychotic disorder precludes a meaningful defense because a fair trial cannot be had.

         The Court instructed that Williamson was to remain at Delaware Psychiatric Center ("DPC") "where measures to restore his competency shall be taken."[6]

         Although the Court did not appoint new counsel when it issued the January 23, 2013 Decision, it ultimately did appoint other attorneys to represent defendant.

         May, 2017 Hearings

         In May, 2017, another competency hearing, extending over several days, was held. The following was established.

         During the time between January 23, 2013, and May, 2017, DPC did not undertake any measures to restore defendant's competency other than to allow him to participate in some group activities. Mustafa Mufti, M.D., the Clinical Director of Forensic Services at DPC, testified that he did not see any symptoms which would call for the administration of psychotropic medications. However, by his admission, he never discussed with defendant the facts of this case in depth.[7] The Court extrapolates from Dr. Mufti's testimony that he never explored defendant's delusions regarding the videotape and the conspiracy theories he held. That would be why he never observed any psychosis. Dr. Mufti diagnosed ...

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