from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana
SMITH, CLEMENT, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
E. SMITH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Porter appeals his conviction by contesting orders finding
him competent to stand trial and denying his request for
expert funding and motions to continue. We affirm.
Bates offered Porter $20, 000 to murder Christopher Smith.
Porter accepted and killed Smith. Porter and Bates were
charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1958(a) (Solicitation
to Commit a Crime of Violence), 18 U.S.C. § 924(j)
(Causing Death Through the Use of a Firearm), and 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(o) (Conspiracy to Possess a Firearm). Before that
indictment, Porter was indicted for RICO violations in a
second case and for armed bank robberies in a
third.Two of those three cases were assigned to
Judge Sarah Vance and the other to Judge Martin Feldman, both
in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
April 2014, Porter's attorneys moved to declare him
incompetent in all three cases. For efficiency, Judges Vance and
Feldman conducted the competency proceedings
together. Defense counsel submitted affidavits
explaining their difficulties communicating with Porter.
Counsel also offered a report from psychiatrist Brushnan
Agharkar, who, after three interviews with Porter,
provisionally diagnosed him with Schizoaffective
Disorder. Agharkar also suggested that Porter
suffered from a neurocognitive disorder or an intellectual
response, the government requested the opportunity to conduct
a psychiatric or psychological examination in accordance with
18 U.S.C. §§ 4241(a) and (b) and 4247(b) and (c).
The district court agreed in April 2014, and Porter was
transported to the Federal Medical Center at Devens
("Devens") in Massachusetts. Devens's forensic
psychologist, Shawn Channell, examined Porter and submitted a
report in August 2014. Channell provisionally recommended
that Porter was not competent and that he remain at Devens
for further evaluation and treatment. Channell explained that
he needed more time to decide whether Porter was malingering
symptoms or genuinely suffering from a mental
joint competency hearing in October 2014, the court
determined that Porter was not then competent to stand trial
and committed him for further evaluation and treatment under
18 U.S.C. § 4241(d). In April 2015, after further
evaluating Porter, Channell submitted a new report to the
court in May 2015. Channell opined that Porter was
malingering symptoms of psychosis and recommended that he be
found competent to stand trial. The court scheduled a second
competency hearing for July 2015.
then moved for funding for a neurological evaluation in one
of his other pending cases. Judge Feldman denied that motion
on the merits. Porter next moved for reconsideration of that
motion in all three cases, which Judge Feldman again denied
on the merits in the case where Porter filed the original
motion. Judge Vance denied the motion for reconsideration in
the other two cases-including the instant case-because the
original motion was filed in a different case.
Porter moved to continue the second competency hearing,
averring that he needed more time for follow-up evaluations
with experts and to finish ongoing discovery. The district
court denied that motion, observing that Porter already had a
follow-up scheduled with Agharkar and that Porter either had
received all discovery or had failed to move to compel
compliance with any outstanding requests. Undeterred, in June
2015 Porter sought another continuance for similar reasons,
which the court again denied.
second competency hearing was held July 6, 2015, as
scheduled. After the hearing, the district court issued a
62-page joint opinion finding Porter competent to stand
trial. The court thoroughly described each expert's
reports and testimony. It also recounted Porter's records
from Devens, transcripts of his previous court appearances,
his past criminal records, his juvenile records, his letters
to the court, and his mother's medical records.
court ultimately credited Channell's testimony that
Porter was malingering, citing multiple portions of
Channell's report. Channell stated that Porter first
presented his alleged psychotic symptoms at age thirty-eight,
but Schizophrenia normally presents itself in one's
early- to mid-twenties. Channell also said that the types of
hallucinations Porter claimed (visual and command
hallucinations) are atypical in schizophrenics. Porter's
response to antipsychotic medications further indicated
malingering because Porter reported an increase in symptoms
when taking the medications. That Porter reported and called
attention to his symptoms was also abnormal in schizophrenics
and evidenced malingering: A genuinely mentally ill person
typically lacks the ability to recognize that he is
hallucinating or experiencing delusional thoughts.
concluded that Porter's reported symptoms "are
demonstrably absurd because it is extremely unlikely that
they could collectively be produced by genuine mental
illness." In addition, Channell opined that Porter
possesses the ability to cooperate and merely chooses not to.
He noted that "Porter was observed routinely interacting
normally with inmates and prison staff" during his time
at Devens. Porter refused to cooperate only during
Channell's competency evaluations.
court chose not to credit Agharkar's report that he
prepared after Porter's release from Devens. Agharkar
maintained his previous conclusion that Porter was not
competent to stand trial, though "only skimmed" the
Devens records, interviewed Porter twice after his release,
and spoke with several of Porter's family members. Still,
Agharkar "opine[d] that [Porter's] understanding of
why those charges were brought, his ability to communicate
rationally about the charges and the evidence, and his
ability to work with counsel are impaired by his psychotic or
neurocognitive disorder." Agharkar averred that
Porter's auditory hallucinations were consistent with a
psychotic disorder but admitted that the visual
hallucinations were atypical. The court refused to credit
Agharkar's opinion, explaining that it would have
"to accept too many unexplained inconsistencies with
such diagnosis: Porter's lack of prior mental illness and
sudden onset of symptoms, his befuddling responses to
antipsychotic medication, his calling attention to his
symptoms, and the inconsistent manner in which he has
court also considered Porter's actions during the various
judicial proceedings. Acknowledging that Porter interrupted
the proceedings multiple times, the court emphasized that
almost all those outbursts addressed the immediate
proceedings. Porter "voiced factual
disagreements with matters currently under discussion"
and "remained engaged and attentive." In other
words, Porter "left no doubt that he understood the
matters under discussion and was capable of voicing his
disagreement with factual testimony."
district court ultimately concluded that Porter was competent
because he was "not presently suffering from a mental
illness or defect." Erring on the side of caution,
however, the court moved to the other part of the competency
analysis: whether Porter was capable of consulting with his
lawyers with a reasonable degree of rational understanding
and whether he possessed a factual and rational understanding
of the proceedings. The court found that Porter could
reasonably consult with his attorneys and did possess a
factual and rational understanding of the
jury convicted on all counts. The district court sentenced
Porter to life in prison on two counts and 240 months'
imprisonment on the other. Porter timely appealed the
competency finding, the denial of his request for funding,
and denials of his motions for continuance.
challenges the finding that he was competent to stand trial.
Title 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a) allows a district court to
grant a hearing to determine competency where "there is
reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently
be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him
mentally incompetent." The court must determine "by
a preponderance of the evidence" whether "the
defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or
defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that
he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the
proceedings against him or to assist properly in his
defense." Id. § 4241(d). "A district
court can consider several factors in evaluating competency,
including, but not limited to, its own observations of the
defendant's demeanor and behavior; medical testimony; and
the observations of other individuals that have interacted
with the defendant." United States v. Simpson,
645 F.3d 300, 306 (5th Cir. 2011). A defendant is competent
where he has "the present ability to consult with his
lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and
[has] a rational as well as factual understanding of the
proceeding against him." Id. (cleaned up).
review a district court's competency determination using
a "species of clear error" review. Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). "[A]fter reanalyzing
the facts and taking a hard look at the trial judge's
ultimate conclusion, we will reverse only if the finding ...