Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Bates: Non-Insanity Psychiatric Evidence Rarely Admissible in General-Intent Prosecutions

In United States v. Bates, No. 18-12533 (May 26, 2020) (Huck, Branch, Marcus), the Court affirmed the defendant’s federal assault, drug, and gun convictions.

First, the Court held, in accordance with five other circuits, that federal assault under 18 U.S.C. 111(b) is a “crime of violence” under the elements clause in 924(c)(3)(A).   The Court reasoned that a forcible assault that either involves the use of a deadly weapon or that results in bodily injury qualifies.

Second, the Court found not abuse of discretion in the district court’s exclusion of three types of evidence.  First, the Court found no abuse of discretion in excluding non-insanity psychiatric evidence of the defendant’s mental state at the time he shot an officer.  The Court clarified that such evidence is only rarely admissible to negate mens rea in general intent prosecutions, such as in self-defense cases where the government was required to prove a heightened (and thus more specific) mens rea.  Here, however, the government sought to rebut the defendant’s self-defense claim by showing that he knew the victim was a federal officer, and the psychiatric testimony was irrelevant to that issue but rather impermissibly sought to establish an affirmative defense based on mental incapacity.  Second ,the Court found no abuse of discretion in excluding hospital records showing that the defendant had been the victim of gunshot wounds many years earlier, and there was no evidence explaining how that related to the offense.  Finally, the Court found that the defendant’s statement to an officer was not an “excited utterance” because it was made well after he was in an excited state.

Third, the Court found sufficient evidence that the defendant was not acting in self defendant and knew that he was shooting at officers.  Therefore, the evidence was sufficient to uphold his assault and 924(c) convictions.

Fourth, as to the sentence, the Court held: that Georgia convictions for possession with intent to distribute marijuana qualified under the ACCA and career offender Guideline; that the defendant was not entitled to a reduction for acceptance of responsibility by pleadings guilty two of the five counts; and that his low-end 360-month sentence was not substantively unreasonable.

Finally, the Court held that the defendant’s Rehaif challenge to his indictment was not jurisdictional in nature, and was therefore waived by pleading guilty.  And, as to the voluntariness of the plea, the defendant could not meet plain error to show that, but for his guilty plea, he would have proceeded to trial because he expressed no confusion that he was a seven-time convicted felon.