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State v. Newson

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

February 3, 2015


Heard in the Court of Appeals October 6, 2014.

Editorial Note:

This Decision is not final until expiration of the twenty-one day rehearing period. [North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(b)]

Cumberland County. No. 10 CRS 4885.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General Kathleen N. Bolton, for the State.

Appellate Defender Staples Hughes, by Assistant Appellate Defender Mary Cook and Assistant Appellate Defender Anne M. Gomez, for Defendant.

McGEE, Chief Judge. Judges STEPHENS and DIETZ concur.

Appeal by Defendant from judgments entered 30 May 2012 by Judge Tanya T. Wallace in Superior Court, Cumberland County.


McGEE, Chief Judge.

Dennis Howard Newson (" Defendant" ) appeals his conviction of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official and two counts of communicating threats. Defendant contends he was not competent to stand trial or represent himself pro se and asks for a new trial. We disagree.

I. Background

Defendant had a personal confrontation with Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin

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(" Sheriff Peterkin" ) and other law enforcement officers at the Fayetteville Western Sizzlin restaurant on 10 March 2010. The details of that confrontation are set out in State v. Newson, __ N.C.App. __, 753 S.E.2d 399 (2013) (unpublished). Two weeks later, on 23 March 2010, Defendant was indicted for (1) assault with a firearm or other deadly weapon on a Government officer or employee; (2) assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill; and (3) two counts of communicating threats. Subsequently, Defendant's competency to stand trial was questioned.

Dr. Nicole Wolfe (" Dr. Wolfe" ), a forensic psychiatrist at Dorothea Dix Hospital, completed a competency evaluation with Defendant on an inpatient basis in June and July of 2010. Dr. Wolfe diagnosed Defendant as having a personality disorder, not otherwise specified, with narcissistic and obsessive features. During a subsequent competency hearing in August 2010, Defendant often rambled and interrupted the trial court. Nonetheless, based on Dr. Wolfe's report, the trial court found Defendant competent to stand trial.

The trial court held a second competency hearing in April 2011. During that hearing, Defendant was combative, disruptive, and went off on tangents. The trial court again reviewed Dr. Wolfe's report and noted that:

[Defendant] is well-versed in legal matters; he had no difficulty readily and thoroughly identifying the roles of various players in the courtroom; he understands plea-bargaining and jury matters; [Defendant] is viewed as comprehending his situation in reference to these proceedings and understanding the nature and object of the proceedings; he has the ability to assist in his defense in a rational and a reasonable manner if he so chooses; he is viewed as capable of proceeding to trial. I would agree with and further note that he has the ability to represent himself [even though] he has exhibited -- well, what I would characterize as deliberately obstreperous and, perhaps, mendacious behavior[.]

The trial court held a third competency hearing in June 2011. Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1242, the trial court conducted a full colloquy with Defendant and determined that Defendant was not only competent to stand trial but that he knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel at trial. During the remainder of the hearing, Defendant made a number of " nonsensical and irrelevant" motions and was combative.

Several months later, Defendant's competency was brought into question again. At a hearing in September 2011, Defendant stated his name was " Noble Dennis Ali" and that he was from South Africa. Defendant also declared himself a " national citizen" and claimed that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over him. Defendant also argued he was entitled to " consulate" and that " consulars" in South Africa were waiting to be called to intervene in the case. At the conclusion of this hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant to be examined at Central Regional Hospital to determine his capacity to proceed.

In November and December of 2011, Dr. Mark Hazelrigg (" Dr. Hazelrigg" ), a forensic psychologist at Central Regional Hospital, completed a second competency evaluation on Defendant. Dr. Hazelrigg diagnosed Defendant as having " a mental disorder, which is manifested in loud, fast speech, which is poorly organized, culminating in illogical/nonsensical statements, as well as apparent delusions." Dr. Hazelrigg advised the trial court that Defendant was incompetent to proceed. The trial court held another competency hearing in February 2012, and adjudicated Defendant incompetent to proceed.

Defendant was then transferred to the Adult Admissions Unit at Cherry Hospital. During Defendant's month-long inpatient stay at Cherry Hospital, he refused to take medications or otherwise participate in therapy of any kind. Nonetheless, Defendant's treating physician, Dr. Paul Kartheiser (" Dr. Kartheiser" ), reported that " there was a lack of significant symptomology which [might] represent [an] Axis I [psychiatric] disorder and that the difficulties that the patient demonstrated were more attributable to characterological factors and a volitional unwillingness to participate more fully in the diagnostic evaluation or in all likelihood his

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legal situation." Dr. Kartheiser sought a second opinion from Cherry Hospital's clinical director, Dr. Jim Mayo, who reported that " no clear Axis I [psychiatric disorder] is present and that [Defendant's] current behaviors reflect [a] severe Axis II [personality disorder], primarily narcissistic with obsessional and antisocial features" .

Dr. Steven D. Peters (" Dr. Peters" ), a forensic psychologist at Cherry Hospital, conducted a third competency evaluation with Defendant in March 2012. After interviewing Defendant, reviewing Defendant's medical records, and consulting with Dr. Kartheiser, Dr. Peters compiled a forensic report on Defendant (" Dr. Peters' report" ). Dr. Peters' report states: " It is the consensus of the psychiatric staff [at Cherry Hospital] that [Defendant] is invested in manipulating the legal system and that he has volitional control over his actions." ...

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