IN RE: REBECCA VAUTER, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL STATE HOSPITAL
PETITION FOR A WRIT OF PROHIBITION
BERNARD GOODWYN, JUSTICE
this original jurisdiction case, we consider whether a writ
of prohibition lies to prevent a circuit court from hearing a
habeas corpus petition challenging a pre-trial detention
order entered by a different circuit court pursuant to Code
October 4, 2000, a grand jury for the City of Alexandria
indicted Gregory Devon Murphy (Murphy) for capital murder of
a child, in violation of Code § 18.2-31(12), and two
counts of malicious wounding, in violation of Code §
18.2-51. On October 19, 2000, Murphy assaulted his attorney
in open court, prompting the Circuit Court of the City of
Alexandria (Alexandria Court) to order a competency
evaluation under the then-current version of Code §
19.2-169.1. In a report delivered on
October 31, the examining psychologist opined that Murphy was
not competent to stand trial, but that "[i]t is possible
that appropriate mental health treatment, including the
administration of antipsychotic medications, may eventually
restore Mr. Murphy's capacities in these regards."
The court ordered Murphy's competency to be restored.
has received treatment continuing to the present. The
Alexandria Court has conducted periodic reviews pursuant to
Code § 19.2-169.3(F), each time finding Murphy
incompetent to stand trial. Murphy receives treatment in Central State
Hospital in Dinwiddie County.
2007, Murphy moved the Alexandria Court to dismiss the
capital murder indictment on the ground that Code §
19.2-169.3(F) is unconstitutional. On September 26, 2007, the
court found the statute constitutional and denied the motion.
It explained that while
the statute probably could have been a little more clear . .
. . Clearly the goal here was a procedure whereby the charges
are not to be dismissed, so long as the other provisions of
the statute are being complied with, and that is that there
be periodic hearings; that there be evidence that the
defendant remains incompetent; that there be evidence that
the treatment is medically appropriate; and that there be
evidence that the defendant is dangerous, all of which we
have in this case.
continued that the evidence is "uncontroverted that Mr.
Murphy remains incompetent, that the medical treatment is
appropriate, and there's evidence that he continues to be
a threat to others."
court also found that the periodic reviews satisfy
Murphy's due process rights. Additionally, the court
found that there was no equal protection violation because
the legislature was entitled to distinguish between
defendants charged with capital and non-capital offenses.
Finally, the court found that the statute did not violate the
prohibition of ex post facto laws because, although
Code § 19.2-169.3 changed during Murphy's detention,
it was a procedural change that did not infringe on any of
Murphy's vested rights.
30, 2014, Murphy again moved to dismiss the capital murder
indictment and for an order directing the Commonwealth to
pursue civil commitment on the ground that his current
detention was unconstitutional. He argued that because he was
"unrestorably incompetent, " restoration treatment
was no longer medically appropriate to justify his continued
detention under Code § 19.2-169.3(F)(iii).
argued that Code § 19.2-169.3(F) violates the
constitutional protections established by Jackson v.
Indiana, 406 U.S. 715, 738 (1972), "that 'the
State must either institute the customary civil commitment
proceedings that would be required to commit indefinitely any
other citizen [not charged with a crime] or release the
defendant.'" He claimed that Code §
19.2-169.3(F) impermissibly permits the "indefinite
detention of unrestorably incompetent defendants charged with
capital murder without prospect of release in the community,
" which "amounts to punishment without adjudication
September 5, 2014, the Commonwealth and Murphy stipulated
that Murphy is "unrestorably incompetent to assist
counsel and to have a rational understanding of the
proceedings, " and on September 8, the Alexandria Court
issued a "Continuance Order and Finding of
Unrestorabilty" regarding Murphy's motion to
dismiss. After a hearing on the record, the court issued a
letter opinion on November 6, 2014, affirming the
constitutionality of the statute, and finding that Murphy
remained a danger to himself and others, and that "the
treatment [he] is receiving is medically appropriate."
By order on November 17, 2014, the court found that
"Murphy remains incompetent to stand trial, that
continued treatment is medically appropriate, and that the
defendant presents a danger to himself and others, " and
ordered continued treatment under Code §
April 22, 2015, Murphy filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus in the Circuit Court of Dinwiddie County (Dinwiddie
Court), arguing that the Director was detaining him without
lawful authority (Dinwiddie Petition). He argued that the
Alexandria Court wrongfully found that continued treatment
was medically appropriate under Code § 19.2-169.3(F).
Specifically, he claimed that he does not meet criterion
(iii) of that section, which is that "continued
treatment" be "medically necessary, " because
it is undisputed that he is unrestorably incompetent, and the
word "treatment" is "plainly construed as
'treatment to restore medical competency.'" He
argued that his continued detention violated both the Due
Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution of
the United States. He asked the Dinwiddie Court to order the
Alexandria Court to dismiss the capital murder indictment and
begin civil commitment proceedings.
Director moved to dismiss the Dinwiddie Petition, arguing
that the Dinwiddie Court lacked jurisdiction under Code
§ 8.01-654(B)(1). The Dinwiddie
Court rejected that argument, finding that Code §
8.01-654(B)(1) only applies when there is both criminal
process and a conviction, but when, like here, there is not a
conviction, Code § 8.0l-654(A)(1) permits the petition
to be filed in any circuit court.
Director moved for reconsideration. On September 23, 2015,
the Dinwiddie Court entered orders memorializing its rulings
denying the ...