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State v. Hinton

Superior Court of Delaware

January 11, 2018


          Date submitted: November 27, 2017


          Christina Kontis, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Attorney for the State.

          James Turner, Esquire, Office of Defense Services, Attorney for Defendant.

          MANNING, Commissioner.

         Pending before the Court is a motion filed by Defendant, Valencio Hinton, to dismiss the charges against him. Hinton alleges that the State's failure to restore him to competency and bring him to trial within a reasonable period of time after his arrest has violated his rights to due process and a speedy trial.[1] The State has filed a response denying this.[2] Because a motion to dismiss is case dispositive I am issuing my decision in the form of a Report and Recommendation.[3]

         For the reasons that follow, it is my recommendation that Hinton's Motion be GRANTED and the charges against him be dismissed.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Hinton was first arrested on August 19, 2015, for the crimes of Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Possession of a Stun gun, Loitering and Failure to Answer a Summons (two counts).[4] Hinton was released on unsecured bail. Hinton was subsequently arrested on September 3, 2015, and charged with Theft over $1, 500 and Theft of a Motor Vehicle for crimes that allegedly occurred on August 18, 2015.[5] Hinton was released on $3, 650.00 secured bail on September 14, 2015, and has remained out on bond since that time. Both cases were indicted on October 12, 2015.[6]

         On January 8, 2016, Counsel for Hinton filed a request in case 1508014324 to have the final case review and trial continued because "more time is needed to assess [Hinton's] competency." The request was granted by the Court the same day. A similar request was granted in case 1508019137 on February 18, 2016. Both cases were again continued on March 31, 2016, at Defendant's request. On April 26, 2016, the State requested a continuance of case 1508019137 because the police officer was unavailable on the trial date. That request was granted on May 4, 2016, On May 12, 2016, a Defense Psycho-Forensic Evaluation was filed by Defendant.[7] In the detailed 12 page report, Dr. Much opined that Hinton was not competent to stand trial due to his chronic severe psychiatric illness with psychotic symptoms. Dr. Much recommended that Hinton continue to take medication and attend outpatient treatment and counseling. Dr. Much did not foreclose the possibility that Hinton could be restored to competency at a future date. The State did not challenge Dr. Much's findings and conclusions.

         On July 7, 2016, an office conference was held before Judge Carpenter. It is unclear from the docket exactly what transpired at the office conference. However, the State subsequently filed a Motion for Revocation of Bail as to both cases on July 11, 2016. Defendant filed a response in opposition on July 21, 2016. The State's motion was referred to Judge Carpenter but was passed on August 1, 2016. The docket indicates that "defense counsel to update court with a plan to restore the defendant's competency. Scheduled for August 16, 2016 at 9 am before Judge Carpenter on his VOP calendar."[8] There is no indication in the docket as to what, if anything, occurred during the VOP hearing on August 16, 2016.

         For inexplicable reasons, a new trial scheduling order was then issued for both cases on November 22, 2016. On November 28, 2016, at final case review, the trial dates of both cases were continued and both cases placed on the Mental Health Problem Calendar, per Judge Carpenter. On July 20, 2017, defense counsel again asked for a continuance because Hinton was due to be re-evaluated the second week of July.

         On September 13, 2017, Defendant filed an Updated Psycho-Forensic Evaluation for Competency report.[9] This report, also by Dr. Much, concluded that Hinton was still not competent to stand trial due to a major psychotic disorder- Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type. The report goes on to state that:'

[I]t is highly unlikely even with continued treatment that [Hinton] will ever acquire the requisite knowledge and judgment to meet the minimal standard for legal competence. [Hinton] continues to have ongoing psychiatric symptoms that will prevent him from ever becoming competent. He will require medication and psychotherapy to limit the likelihood of further decompensation and deterioration in functioning that could result in a possible risk of harm to himself or others.

         The updated report was referred to the undersigned Commissioner on September 19, 2017. To date, the State has not sought a second ...

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