United States v. Perea, No. 19-2160 (10th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Defendant Martin Perea on nine counts of production of a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct. In 2016, Defendant produced a report by Dr. Alexander Paret, which opined that Defendant lacked competency to stand trial. In light of this report, the Government moved for a psychiatric and psychological examination of Defendant, and Defendant was sent for evaluation. In 2017, Dr. Lisa Bellah, a licensed psychologist with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), reported that Defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect which rendered him unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to properly assist in his defense. Dr. Bellah thus determined Defendant was presently incompetent to stand trial. But she also suggested that Defendant could achieve competency within a reasonable amount of time if he were educated on criminal matters. In response, the district court entered an order finding Defendant incompetent to stand trial. And upon the Government’s motion, the court ordered that Defendant be committed for treatment and restoration. In 2018, Dr. Jacob X. Chavez, another psychologist with the BOP reported that Defendant was incompetent and substantially unlikely to be restored to competency in the foreseeable future. Upon recommendation, the district court ordered a risk assessment. During the pre-risk assessment and risk assessment interviews, however, Dr. Chavez observed that Defendant presented as “notably different” from his previous presentation, revealing a “higher level of understanding than portrayed previously.” Based in part on this observation, Dr. Chavez issued a new report which found Defendant was, more likely than not, competent to proceed. At competency hearings, Dr. Chavez testified, leading the district court to enter an order finding Defendant competent to stand trial. Defendant filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the district court’s last order. Because a competency determination was a non-final order, and the collateral order doctrine did not apply, the Tenth Circuit granted the Government's motion to dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.