JOHNNIE J. GAMBLE, Appellant,
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee
Appeal from the District Court, First Judicial District, Sitka, David V. George, Judge. Trial Court Nos. 1SI-10-282 CR & 1SI-10-407 CR.
Kelly Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.
Jean E. Seaton, Assistant District Attorney, Sitka, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, and Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]
After being charged with three counts of violating a domestic violence protective order, Johnnie J. Gamble was found incompetent to stand trial and committed to the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) for 90 days in an effort to restore him to competency. At the end of the 90-day commitment, the trial court concluded that Gamble was competent to proceed to trial, despite his attorney's continuing objections that Gamble could not meaningfully participate in his own defense. Gamble was subsequently convicted of two counts of violating a protective order.
Gamble appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that he was competent to stand trial. For the reasons explained in this opinion, we affirm the trial court's ruling.
Facts and proceedings
The State charged Gamble in two separate cases with three counts of violating a domestic violence protective order. Shortly after Gamble's arraignment, Gamble's attorney requested a competency evaluation of Gamble to determine if he was legally competent to stand trial.
Dr. Lois Michaud, a forensic psychologist at API, conducted a competency evaluation of Gamble on January 19, 2011. Dr. Michaud reported that Gamble was very delusional and would be unable to consult with his attorney in a rational manner or present a rational defense. She observed that Gamble's delusions included his belief that he had already been to trial and that he needed to talk to a physicist because, in his words, " the theory of causality, cause and effect, everything is created by God and every physical thing possibly has already happened and can happen again." Dr. Michaud concluded based on the intensity and intrusiveness of Gamble's delusions that he was not competent to stand trial.
Superior Court Judge David V. George, sitting as a district court judge, found Gamble incompetent to stand trial. Pursuant to AS 12.47.110(a), Judge George then ordered Gamble committed to API for 90 days for further evaluation and possible restoration to competency.
Near the end of the 90 days, Dr. Michaud re-evaluated Gamble and concluded that his mental condition had improved under the structured setting of the psychiatric hospital and that he was now competent to stand trial. At the subsequent competency hearing, Dr. Michaud testified that when she first interviewed Gamble in January, his delusional ramblings and the intrusiveness of his delusional thoughts made him very difficult to interview. Gamble had greatly improved by the time he was re-evaluated, and his delusions were significantly " less intrusive" than before. Dr. Michaud concluded that while Gamble's delusions had not entirely disappeared, they no longer presented the same barrier to coherent and rational communication as before.
However, Dr. Michaud specifically warned the court and the parties that exposure to an unstructured environment (like jail or trial) could cause Gamble's delusions to become more intrusive, and that Gamble's attorney " would be the first to know" if Gamble began to experience ...