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U.S. v. MINERD

March 19, 2002

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
V.
JOSEPH P. MINERD, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maurice B. Cohill, Jr., Senior United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Joseph P. Minerd is charged with maliciously damaging and destroying, by means of fire and an explosive, a building which was used in interstate commerce and in an activity affecting interstate commerce, which conduct resulted in the deaths of Deana Mitts and Kayla Mitts, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844 (i). The government has served notice that it intends to seek the death penalty if the defendant is convicted, under the Federal Death Penalty Act ("FDPA"), 18 U.S.C. § 3591 et seq.
The government has filed a Renewal of Motion for Discovery of Mental Health Evidence and for Order Compelling Defendant to Submit to Mental Health Examination (Doc. 234) and a Motion to Compel Disclosure of Mental Health Evidence and Proposed Procedures for Disclosure (Doc. 256). Each motion seeks an order permitting the defendant to be examined by the government's mental health experts in advance of trial, and, in addition, requests certain discovery as to Mr. Minerd's mental health evidence. The defendant strenuously opposes any examination before the conclusion of the guilt/innocence phase of this capital case.

Having considered the submissions of the parties and the applicable law, the government's motions will be granted in part and denied in part for the reasons set forth below.

Procedural Background

The government filed its first Motion for Discovery of Mental Health Evidence and for Order Compelling Defendant to Submit to Mental Health Examination (Doc. 139) on July 7, 2001.

On January 22, 2002, the defendant filed a Supplemental Response to the government's earlier motion (Doc. 228). In it, Minerd informed the court and government counsel that "[t]he defense has recently obtained background information bearing upon Mr. Minerd's mental status that will almost certainly be introduced into evidence during any penalty phase. . . ." Doc. 228 at ¶ 4. Defendant further stated that preliminary information from a neuropsychologist indicated that Minerd may suffer from organic brain dysfunction, as a result of a fall and head injury in 1997. Doc. 228 at ¶ 5.
Defendant explained that "some initial testing has been done (and) additional testing is contemplated." Doc. 228 at ¶ 6. He then provided information from the initial test results.

Anticipating that the government would now renew its motion for an order compelling a mental health examination by the government's expert, counsel for the defendant requested a hearing to define the scope and circumstances of any evaluation.

The government filed its renewed motion on February 4, 2002, and we set a hearing on the matter for February 7. At that time, the parties informed the Court that they had agreed on most of the issues, and that a hearing was no longer necessary. The defendant stated that it would file notice by February 19 if it intended to use mental health evidence during any penalty phase. Counsel for the government explained which expert he expected to retain, and both parties seemed to agree that the general procedure set forth in United States v. Beckford, 962 F. Supp. 748 (E.D.Va. 1997) would be appropriate.
Any understanding the parties appeared to have reached had evaporated by the time the defendant filed his Combined Response and Objections to the Prosecution's Motion (Doc. 249), which generally asserts that the government is not entitled to have Minerd examined nor to discovery of any his mental health evidence, and that the procedures outlined in Beckford are inapplicable to this case.
The government responded on February 28, 2002, by filing a Motion to Compel Disclosure of Mental Health Evidence and Proposed Procedures for Disclosure (Doc. 256), which sets forth an alternate procedure. Minerd has ...

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