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Media Alerts - United States v. Conrad -- Fourth Circuit
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February 6, 2015
  United States v. Conrad -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: Not-Guilty-by-Reason-of-Insanity Acquittee Cannot Delay Dangerousness Assessment by Committing New Crimes

Area of Law: Criminal Law, Commitment Proceedings

Issues Presented: Whether 18 U.S.C. § 4243 applies to someone adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity yet incarcerated on other charges before their commitment hearing. Whether 18 U.S.C. § 4243 authorizes a trial court to delay the commitment hearing until the acquittee is released from the subsequent incarceration.

Brief Summary: The commitment statute at issue in this appeal, 18 U.S.C. § 4243, provides for the evaluation and commitment of defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity ("NGI"). The statute's procedural framework mandates a psychological evaluation followed by a hearing to determine an acquittee's commitment status within forty days of the NGI determination. At the hearing, § 4243 gives the court two options: indefinite commitment or unconditional release. The choice between the two options is based on the acquitted person's perceived "dangerousness." Dangerousness is measured by the acquittee's potential to pose a substantial risk to the public.

Conrad, the appellant in this case, was adjudicated NGI in 2006. He received his psychological evaluation in 2007. At the subsequent hearing, the court determined Conrad would not pose a substantial risk to the public. However, instead of releasing him unconditionally, as contemplated by the commitment statute, the court released Conrad subject to various conditions. In 2010, Conrad was charged with murder. At Conrad's murder trial, the district court revoked his conditional release. In 2012, the United States Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit vacated both the revocation and the conditional release. The Fourth Circuit's decision invalidated Conrad's previous § 4243 proceeding, and as a result, required him to undergo a new dangerousness hearing.

Later that same year, before the new dangerousness hearing could be held, Conrad was charged with and convicted of additional offenses. The trial court denied Conrad's motion to dismiss his pending commitment proceeding and ordered that the dangerousness hearing be delayed until the end of Conrad's prison term. Conrad appealed.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court held that no statutory provision rendered the commitment procedures inapplicable to Conrad simply because he had committed subsequent offenses. In addition, the court affirmed the decision to delay the commitment hearing until the end of his current prison term. In the court's view, the decision to delay was consistent with the framework of 18 U.S.C. § 4243 because it delayed the dangerousness hearing until Conrad regained the potential to pose a substantial risk to the public.

To read the full opinion, please click here.

Panel: DUNCAN, KEENAN, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges

Argument Date: 10/30/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 01/13/2015

Docket Number: Case No. 13-7384

Case Alert Author: Bethany Henneman, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Brian Jackson Beck, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Abingdon, Virginia, for Appellant. Jean Barrett Hudson, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Larry W. Shelton, Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellant. Timothy J. Heaphy, United States Attorney, Roanoke, Virginia, Zachary T. Lee, Assistant United States Attorney, Anne H. Lippitt, Third Year Law Student, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Abingdon, Virginia, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Duncan

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 02/06/2015 03:53 PM     4th Circuit  

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