in the Court of Appeals 4 September 2019.
by defendant from judgments entered 13 June 2018 by Judge
Henry W. Hight Jr. in Vance County No. 07 CRS 50717, 50725
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General M.A. Kelly Chambers, for the State.
Marilyn G. Ozer for defendant-appellant.
McDonald Williams ("Defendant") appeals from
judgments entered after a jury's verdict found him guilty
of first degree murder and guilty of attempted murder. We
find no error.
Shirley Venable ("Venable") was awakened to someone
calling her name outside her home during the early morning of
27 February 2007. Venable testified she heard Defendant say
"Ma, open the door." Venable is Defendant's
mother. When Venable opened her door, a friend, Leo Ziegler,
Jr., ("Ziegler") ran inside her house. Defendant
stood at the doorway and began firing a handgun. Venable was
shot in her left side and Ziegler was shot in the chest.
and Ziegler attempted to flee through the house, but Venable
was shot again in her left hip and Ziegler was shot in the
back of his head. Ziegler's head wound was fatal. After
Venable was shot in her hip and fell to the floor, Defendant
shot Venable a final time in her right leg. Venable was able
to wrestle the gun from Defendant.
fled Venable's home. First responders arrived and found
Venable covered in blood at her backdoor and Ziegler's
body in the kitchen. Officers found Defendant hiding under a
nearby automobile and arrested him.
March 2007, the trial court determined Defendant needed
emergency medical care for mental illness and issued a
safekeeping order. On 12 March 2007, Defendant was indicted
on one count of first degree murder of Ziegler and one count
of attempted murder of Venable.
Alton Williams ("Dr. Williams"), (no relation to
Defendant), first interviewed Defendant on 3 July 2007. Dr.
Williams conducted follow up interviews with Defendant on 7
January 2008 and 10 April 2008. In preparing his report, Dr.
Williams also reviewed 190 documents related to Defendant.
During these interviews, Defendant told Dr. Williams he
considered deceased Ethiopian leader, Haile Selassie, to be a
god and Defendant wanted to be his right-hand-man. Defendant
insisted his deceased father had connections to rap music
artists and producers. He also discussed his imaginary
Dr. Williams inquired about the pending charges, Defendant
stated the worst outcome of his case would be the death
penalty, but because of his pending tort claim he would not
receive a death sentence because it was an act of Congress.
Defendant explained the current charges were a prerequisite
for him to prevail in the tort claim. Defendant stated he
would be receiving his money from his tort claim any day and
would be going home.
Williams reported Defendant began using marijuana at age 16,
smoking six to seven "blunts" daily. Defendant
"first used alcohol at seven or eight years old, but
became a regular drinker when he was 16 years old."
Defendant reported he would drink "four to five 40 ounce
beers a day." Defendant self-reported he used crack
cocaine twice a week from 2005 through his arrest.
testified that while incarcerated for a prior conviction, he
purchased a state tort claim for $5.00 from another inmate
named Lock Jordan. Defendant asserted his tort claim was
against the State, but required federal government assistance
to succeed on his claim. Defendant also stated he received
money from a rap music "record deal."
July 2008, Dr. Williams submitted a forensic psychiatric
evaluation. Dr. Williams diagnosed Defendant with
schizophrenia, paranoid type and substance dependence. Dr.
Williams concluded that Defendant exhibited deficits, which
impaired his ability to rationally and factually understand
the trial process. Specifically, Defendant's delusion
that his current criminal charges were related to a tort
claim against the State. Dr. Williams further concluded
Defendant "does not have the capacity to assist counsel
in preparing and implementing a defense."
September 2008, Defendant was evaluated by Dr. Charles Vance,
M.D., PhD. ("Dr. Vance"). Defendant continued to
assert his beliefs in his tort claim and added that other
patients were "messing" with him and that he could
hear whispered threats. Dr. Vance reported that on one
occasion Defendant became violent with hospital staff. On 30
October 2008, Dr. Vance concluded Defendant was not
malingering and he met the criteria for a diagnosis of
paranoid schizophrenia. Dr. Vance further concluded
Defendant's ability to participate meaningfully in trial
"was substantially impaired by his ongoing mental
December 2008, the court found and concluded Defendant did
not have the legal capacity to assist counsel in preparing
and implementing a defense to the pending charges. On 8
September 2009, the trial court issued an order finding
Defendant incompetent to stand trial. The following day,
Defendant's counsel and the State entered into a
stipulation that Defendant was incompetent to proceed to
September 2009, Defendant's competency to stand trial was
reassessed. Dr. Julia Messer, Ph.D ("Dr. Messer")
examined Defendant and prepared the report. Again, she
diagnosed Defendant with paranoid schizophrenia. Defendant
told the staff that strangers could "derail his lawsuit
by standing too close to him and sneezing." Defendant
further reported that former President George W. Bush, then
President Barack Obama, and talk show host, Oprah Winfrey,
were aware of his situation. Defendant felt his mother may
have been a "witch at various times in the past."
reported having the following hallucinations: seeing shadows
that were always present, hearing his deceased father
breathing heavily in his closet, and seeing a "big
parrot made out of fog." Defendant also maintained his
belief that in order to sue the State he had to kill
somebody. On 7 October 2009, Dr. Messer found Defendant's
test scores and behavior were consistent with paranoia, and
not attempts to feign or exaggerate mental illness. She
concluded Defendant was not competent to stand trial.
October 2009, the State dismissed the charges with leave, due
to Defendant being incapable of proceeding to trial. On 10
March 2014, the State entered a Notice of Reinstatement of
October 2015, Defendant reported thoughts of hanging himself
because purportedly "the devil told him to hurt
himself." Defendant was prescribed olanzapine, an
antipsychotic medication, which appeared to alleviate his
psychotic symptoms. Dr. Vance re-evaluated Defendant. During
this examination, Defendant did not raise his "tort
claim" as a reason for his current legal situation.
Defendant stated "it ain't related" to his
current pending criminal charges.
Vance reported Defendant appeared embarrassed by and
dismissive of his past claims. Dr. Vance found
Defendant's "presentation during this current
evaluation was wholly unexpected." Dr. Vance further
found Defendant "completely disavows those previous
psychotic beliefs and shows a very good orientation to the
reality of the case, even though he is [presently] receiving
lower dose of antipsychotic medication." Dr. Vance
issued a report concluding Defendant was competent to proceed
at trial on 4 November 2015. On 4 February 2016 the State
entered another Notice of Reinstatement of Charges.
July 2016, Dr. Richard Blanks, J.D., M.D., an Adult and
Forensic Psychiatrist, ("Dr. Blanks") met with
Defendant at the Craven Correctional Institution. Dr. Blanks
sent a letter to Defendant's counsel stating that he had
also found Defendant was competent to stand trial on 10
October 2016. Upon joint motions regarding Defendant's
competency from Defendant's counsel and the State, the
trial court issued an order finding Defendant competent to
stand trial on 23 October 2016.
November 2016 Defendant was found in need of protective
custody, due to being an escape risk with anger problems. As
the Vance County jail did not have proper facilities to take
care of him, a safekeeping order was issued. On 7 December
2017 a further safekeeping order was issued on the grounds
that Defendant required mental health treatment, psychiatric
care and medication. On 20 April 2018, another safekeeping
order was issued due to Defendant's unpredictable
outbursts including violent assaults.
was tried 13 June 2018 through 14 June 2018. Defendant
testified and offered evidence at his trial. The jury
returned a verdict and found Defendant guilty of first-degree
murder and attempted murder. Defendant was sentenced to a
mandatory life sentence without parole for the first-degree
murder conviction of Ziegler, and not less than 480 months
and not more than 585 months for attempted murder of Venable.
Defendant gave oral notice of appeal from both judgments.
Court possesses jurisdiction pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat.
§§ 7A-27(b) and 15A-1444(a) (2017).
sole argument on appeal asserts the trial court erred by not
sua sponte ordering a competency assessment to
protect his constitutional rights to due process.
Standard of Review
person whose mental condition is such that he lacks the
capacity to understand the nature and object of the
proceedings against him, to consult with counsel, and to
assist in preparing his defense may not be subjected to a
trial." Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171,
43 L.Ed.2d 103, 112-113 (1975). "[T]he conviction of an
accused person while he is legally incompetent violates due
process[.]" State v. Taylor, 298 N.C. 405, 410,
259 S.E.2d 502, 505 (1979) (citations omitted). "The
standard of review for alleged violations of constitutional
rights is de novo." State v. Graham,
200 N.C.App. 204, 214, 683 S.E.2d 437, 444 (2009) (citation
asserts the trial court's failure to sua sponte
order a competency evaluation violates his constitutional
right to due process. N.C. ...