Wednesday, August 24, 2016
State v. Montgomery - death penalty; sua sponte competency evaluation not required merely because capital defendant is on prescription medication
In State v. Montgomery, the Court affirmed the death penalty imposed by a three-judge panel upon Caron Montgomery, who had waived his right to a jury trial and pleaded guilty to murder, domestic violence, and aggravated murder with death specifications, in connection with the 2010 murders of Montgomery's girlfriend Tia Hendricks, their two-year-old son Tyron Hendricks, and Tia Hendricks's nine-year-old daughter Tahlia Hendricks. Of note, Montgomery contended on appeal that his jury waiver and guilty plea were not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently made because he was taking two prescription medications, Thorazine and Risperdal, at the time of the waiver and plea. He further contended that the trial court knew that he was under the influence of the medications, and should have ordered a competency evaluation. The Court disagreed, holding that the panel interacted with Montgomery multiple times over an 18-month period, adequately conducted the Crim.R. 11 plea and waiver colloquys (including adequate inquiry into the prescription medications), and properly determined that there was no reason to suspect that Montgomery was incompetent. The Court also stated that "we have never held that a court must order a competency hearing before accepting a guilty plea from a capital defendant who is taking a prescription medication for mental illness, and we decline to do so now." Justice William M. O'Neill dissented, arguing that the Court's 2004 decision in State v. Mink required the lower court to conduct a competency evaluation before accepting a guilty plea from a capital defendant on prescription medications.