Satterwhite v. Texas – Oral Argument – December 08, 1987

Media for Satterwhite v. Texas

del

William H. Rehnquist:

We’ll hear argument now in Number 86-6284, John T. Satterwhite v. Texas.

Mr. Woods, you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

Richard D. Woods:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This is a criminal case from the State of Texas, involving a death penalty which was imposed on the Petitioner, and a case that was tried in 1979, error complained of and the question presented before the Court is whether there was a denial of effective assistance to counsel in the allowing of testimony of Dr. James P. Grigson, a Dallas psychiatrist, during the punishment phase of the Defendant’s trial.

The complained-of error is couched on this Court’s decision in Estelle v. Smith in that counsel was not advised nor notified previously to the order appointing Dr. Grigson to examine the Defendant for two reasons.

One was for the purpose of determining competency to stand trial and the other was the purpose of determining future dangerousness.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Was that by court order?

Richard D. Woods:

Yes, sir, it was.

This order was signed and filed by the District Attorney’s Office, the prosecutor in San Antonio, Texas, on April 18th, 1979.

Trial counsel was appointed April 10th, 1979.

The order was submitted to the Court in whose case, the Petitioner’s case, was indicted.

So, counsel should have been advised prior to at least the examination of the Defendant.

The Defendant was not examined by Dr. Grigson till May 3rd of 1979.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This is the same Dr. Grigson that appears in every Texas case or did appear?

Richard D. Woods:

Yes, sir.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Is he now deceased?

Richard D. Woods:

No.

I believe he’s still practicing.

I don’t believe he is testifying anymore in these types of cases, at least I have not heard.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Mr. Woods, what’s the role of defense counsel in connection with one of these examinations by a psychiatrist in Texas?

Richard D. Woods:

Justice, the role as far as the defense counsel would be is to determine or to at least advise the client of the scope of the examination.

Let him know what the impact of it could be, what ramifications could be derived from it.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

The attorney doesn’t actually sit in and participate at the time of the examination.

Richard D. Woods:

Such a request, of course, was not made and I don’t think the attorney would necessarily–

Sandra Day O’Connor:

But it doesn’t normally occur, is that right?

Richard D. Woods:

–No, I don’t think so.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

It would simply be a matter of consultation of some kind with the defendant in advance of the examination?

Richard D. Woods:

To let him know what the ramifications could possibly be as to the examination.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Now, there were two other doctors appointed in this instance to examine Mr. Satterwhite, is that right?

Richard D. Woods:

Yes.

del

Richard D. Woods:

That was Dr. Holbrook, I believe.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

And in each case, did his attorney advise… were you representing him below?

Richard D. Woods:

Yes, I was.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Did you talk to him in advance of those… each of those examinations?

Richard D. Woods:

I was not advised.

First of all, Dr. Holbrook did not examine Mr. Satterwhite.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

There was a psychologist who did.

Richard D. Woods:

Dr. Betty Lou Schroeder.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Yes, and did you talk to Mr. Satterwhite before that examination?

Richard D. Woods:

Dr. Schroeder examined Mr. Satterwhite on March 16th, before I was appointed to represent him.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

And not again?

Richard D. Woods:

The testimony that was elicited in the trial shows that she talked to him on several occasions.

Now, specifically when is unknown to anybody.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

That testimony is not challenged.

Richard D. Woods:

Well, basically, it is challenged, but, of course, it’s challenged through the means of the complaint of Dr. Grigson, because of Dr. Grigson’s impact on the jury, which, of course, is buttressed by the state’s argument.

They argued and supported their position for the death penalty and for the affirmative findings of Special Issue Number 2, stating that Dr. Grigson’s a Dallas psychiatrist and a medical doctor and not referring to just a mere county-employed psychologist.

And, so, the impact to the jury was very great.

Of course, the impact of Dr. Grigson to any jury is devastating and it’s for those reasons for which, of course,–

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Now, what was the April 18th order signed by the Court?

Richard D. Woods:

–That was the… there was an order signed.

That was the order for appointment of a Dr. Holbrook and Dr. Schroeder to examine the Defendant for purposes of mental competency.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

And you knew about that order?

Richard D. Woods:

No, ma’am.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Never?

Richard D. Woods:

Did not… was not told.

I was not advised.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Never looked at the file?

Richard D. Woods:

I saw the file several times.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

You did not see that order in the file?

Richard D. Woods:

Well, I can only tell you from my own personal observation and knowledge, I didn’t see that order in the file–

del

Sandra Day O’Connor:

But it was there?

Richard D. Woods:

–Well, I tell you, I saw the file on, I can say, two occasions, both of which I did not see the order in the file nor did I see Dr. Grigson’s letter that he wrote on May 3rd.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

I’m talking about the April 18th order.

Richard D. Woods:

The April 18th order did not surface until after, I’d say it was, about the middle of May, and that’s when I prepared several motions which were filed May 29th.

Byron R. White:

Isn’t there a copy of that for each case?

Richard D. Woods:

The entry of a docket sheet as to that particular order, if made, and I don’t have it in front of me right now, was not necessarily entered, as I could see.

Byron R. White:

Well, has it ever been entered?

Richard D. Woods:

I don’t remember.

I couldn’t tell you.

Byron R. White:

I suppose if it’s on the docket, entered on the docket sheet and there’s a date on it, that’s what you usually look at to see what’s in a file.

Richard D. Woods:

Yes, sir.

Byron R. White:

Did you look at it?

Richard D. Woods:

I looked.

I did look at the docket sheet because sometimes they keep–

Byron R. White:

Well, don’t you think you ought to look at the docket sheet?

Richard D. Woods:

–Well, that’s true, but, Your Honor, the point is that in examining the file… first of all, the order that was presented in front of the Judge, after I was appointed as counsel, was not even… in fact, I was not even provided any notice for it.

Without notice–

William H. Rehnquist:

Wouldn’t Texas practice ordinarily provide that if there’s an attorney of record for the Defendant, that a copy of that… at least a proposed formal order would be served?

Richard D. Woods:

–As far as I’m concerned, yes.

In every court I’ve practiced in, there’s always been a notice or certificate of service to opposing counsel.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

What date were you appointed?

Richard D. Woods:

April 10th, I believe, yes.

I was–

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Was April 18th the order serviced?

Richard D. Woods:

–That’s the date the order was signed by the Judge.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And you didn’t see it until May some time?

Richard D. Woods:

I didn’t see it until mid-May.

Antonin Scalia:

Is this the Schroeder order or the Grigson order?

Richard D. Woods:

This is actually the Holbrook order.

There was never an order for Dr. Grigson.

del

Richard D. Woods:

He came in under the guise of the Holbrook order.

Antonin Scalia:

I thought that the order pursuant to which Schroeder examined your client was entered before you were appointed.

Richard D. Woods:

Yes, sir.

That order was entered the day after he was arrested.

Antonin Scalia:

What order is it we’re talking about?

What were the contents of the order entered on April 18th?

Richard D. Woods:

The contents of the order on April 18th dealt with the appointment of Drs.

Holbrook and Schroeder to examine John Satterwhite for purposes of determining competency to stand trial and to determine whether or not he would be a continuing threat to society in the future.

William H. Rehnquist:

You’re not directly challenging either the Holbrook or the other expert testimony, are you?

Richard D. Woods:

There was no expert testimony from Holbrook.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, then, the other, the Schroeder.

Richard D. Woods:

I am effectively challenging–

William H. Rehnquist:

You’re not saying that it was a violation of the Sixth Amendment to have permitted her to testify?

Richard D. Woods:

–Her testimony came in based upon her examination at a time prior to counsel being appointed and then, as she testified, at a time after counsel was appointed.

She said and the record should reflect that she was aware of counsel being appointed but did not notify counsel of her examinations.

William H. Rehnquist:

But, now, was that point raised in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals?

Richard D. Woods:

The point was raised more towards Dr. Grigson than it was–

William H. Rehnquist:

Much more, almost to the exclusion of–

Richard D. Woods:

–I’ll have to agree.

That’s true.

William H. Rehnquist:

–So, but, now, do you challenge the Schroeder testimony here, not having challenged it in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals?

Richard D. Woods:

Well, it was challenged in the Motion for Rehearing in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

William H. Rehnquist:

And what did the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals do with the Motion for Rehearing?

Richard D. Woods:

They did not write an opinion.

They denied the Motion for Rehearing.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Now, when was the order appointing Dr. Grigson entered by the Court, do you know?

Richard D. Woods:

There was no order for Dr. Grigson ever submitted.

The only thing that was–

Sandra Day O’Connor:

Well, the Court did something or he wouldn’t have made examination presumably.

Richard D. Woods:

–The Court… Dr. Grigson acted in the stead of Dr. Holbrook.