United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
BARRY FISCHER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
February 6, 2018, Defendant Demetrius Mitchell-Yarbrough and
his Co-defendant Davon Stevens were charged in a multi-count
Indictment with the following: conspiracy to possess with
intent to distribute and distribute quantities of cyclopropyl
fentanyl, acetylfentanyl and fentanyl, in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 846 (Count One) and possession with intent to
distribute a quantity of cyclopropyl fentanyl and a quantity
of acetylfentanyl and fentanyl, both in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C) (Counts Two
and Three), all for conduct occurring on or about July 28,
2017. (Docket No. 3). Defendant also was charged with
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count Four) and possession of a
firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i) (Count Five),
also for conduct occurring on or about July 28, 2017.
March 8, 2018, Defendant made an initial appearance before
Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell and an order of temporary
detention was entered. (Docket Nos. 29, 31). It was noted at
Defendant's initial appearance that counsel for the
parties intended to file a joint motion for a competency
examination. (Docket No. 29).
March 15, 2018, the Court granted the parties' joint
motion to determine the competency of Defendant because the
Court found that there was reasonable cause to believe that
he was suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering
him mentally incompetent to stand trial. (Docket No. 34). In
accordance with the Court's Order, pursuant to 18 U.S.C.
§§ 4241(b) and 4247(b), Defendant was evaluated by
his expert, Dr. Louis S. Martone, and the Government's
expert, Dr. Robert M. Wettstein, to determine if he is able
to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings
against him and to assist properly in his defense.
Martone concluded in his competency evaluation report dated
April 13, 2018, that Defendant suffers from an intellectual
disability and consequently “is unable to understand
the nature of the proceedings against him and does not
exhibit the capacity to assist properly in his own
defense.” (Docket No. 103-2 at 13). Dr. Martone
subsequently re-evaluated Defendant in order to render an
updated opinion and issued a competency evaluation addendum
dated April 3, 2019. (Docket No. 103-3). Dr. Martone
concluded that Defendant continues to suffer from an
intellectual disability of unspecified severity, but he now
displays an ability to understand the nature and consequences
of the proceedings against him. (Id. at 3). In view
of Defendant's compromised intellectual functioning, Dr.
Martone further determined that Defendant will require
certain accommodations to ensure that he is able to assist
properly in his defense, such as reduced trial time to half
day segments, increased recesses to allow for defense counsel
to engage with him, and other similar allowances.
(Id. at 3-4). Without any accommodations, Dr.
Martone expressed concern about Defendant's ability to
assist properly in his defense. (Id. at 4). In Dr.
Martone's second addendum to his competency evaluation
dated April 9, 2019, he recommended the following
accommodations: “reduction in trial days to half day
segments; increased recesses available upon request to allow
for defense counsel to engage with defendant; and additional
counsel to assist in educating the client on concepts,
issues, and factual information related to his trial, both
during and/or in between courtroom hours.” (Docket No.
103-4 at 1).
Wettstein concluded in his competency evaluation report dated
February 25, 2019, that Defendant “has a mental disease
or defect in the form of an intellectual disability of
unspecified severity, ” but the intellectual disability
“does not render him unable to understand the nature
and consequences of the legal proceedings against him.”
(Docket No. 103-5 at 8-9). Dr. Wettstein also determined that
Defendant is able to assist properly in his defense, though
just marginally so. (Id. at 9). Dr. Wettstein
explained that his determination about Defendant's
present capacity is predicated upon his counsel's
availability to spend more time and effort with him and to
present information to him in a slow, simple manner.
competency hearing originally was scheduled on April 8, 2019,
but it did not occur that day because Defendant was not made
available by the Allegheny County Jail for transport to
Court. (Docket No. 95). The hearing was subsequently held on
June 3, 2019 (the “June 3rd hearing”),
the official transcript of which was filed of record on June
28, 2019. (Docket Nos. 103, 110). In view of the opinions of
both Drs. Martone and Wettstein set forth in their written
reports that Defendant is able to understand the nature and
consequences of the proceedings against him, (Docket Nos.
103, 103-3 at 3, 103-5 at 8-9), the June 3rd
hearing focused on recommended accommodations to ensure that
Defendant is able to assist properly in his defense. To that
end, Dr. Martone testified to a reasonable degree of medical
certainty that Defendant requires the following
• Appointment of additional counsel or a paralegal to
explain legal concepts, case strategy and other relevant
procedures to Defendant in advance of scheduled proceedings,
as well as to explain what is transpiring during hearings and
trial. Prior to proceedings and during hearings and trial,
counsel must engage with Defendant on a repeated basis to
confirm his understanding of what is transpiring. After
counsel explains to Defendant what he can expect to occur or
what has occurred at a hearing or trial, counsel must ask
Defendant to explain his understanding of same to verify that
he does in fact comprehend counsel's explanation.
• An increased number of breaks or recesses must be
given during hearings and trial so that Defendant's
counsel can engage with him to ensure that he understands
what is occurring in the proceedings.
• Trial days must be shortened to ½ or ¾
of a day, depending on the number and length of breaks that
are allotted during that time.
• The Court, attorneys and witnesses must avoid speaking
in jargon during hearings and trial. To the extent testimony
or argument involves complicated concepts, jargon or
technical language, those matters must be explained to
• To the extent feasible, hard copies of documents that
will be referenced or entered into evidence in hearings or
trial must be supplied to Defendant in advance so that the
documents can be read and explained to him.
• Any documents that are projected on screens in the
courtroom or referenced during proceedings must be read aloud
to ensure that Defendant understands their content.
• To the extent that any video will be played and/or
entered into evidence in hearings or trial, the video must be
shown in advance to Defendant. This may be done up ...