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State v. Ghormley

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 5, 2014


Session July 23, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Blount County No. C17294 Don R. Ash, Senior Judge

Kevin W. Shepherd, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Anthony Todd Ghormley. [1]

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Michael L. Flynn, District Attorney General; and Ellen Berez, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., and Timothy L. Easter, Sp. J., joined.


James Curwood Witt, Jr., Judge

A Blount County Circuit Court jury convicted the defendant of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of especially aggravated burglary, and three counts of aggravated assault for his brutal attack on three women, including his wife and her grandmother, and the trial court imposed a sentence of 105 years' incarceration. See State v. Anthony Todd Ghormley, No. E2010-00634-CCA-R3-CD, slip op. at 2 (Tenn. Crim. App., Knoxville, Jan. 20, 2012) (Ghormley I). The defendant beat the women with a baseball bat, cut them with a knife, and, after the other two women escaped, held his wife's grandmother hostage in her own home for several hours during a stand-off with police. See id. On direct appeal, the defendant claimed, among other things, "that the trial court erred by refusing to hold a competency hearing or to reset the trial date when defense counsel raised the question of [the defendant's] competency to stand trial two weeks before trial started" and "that the trial court improperly based a finding of competency entirely on the trial court's observations of the defendant in the course of the pretrial process, despite other evidence that suggested [the defendant] was incompetent." Id. Based on a letter to the trial court from Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute ("MTMHI"), the defendant's complaints that he had not received his required medication at the jail, and the defendant's myriad, obscenity-laden pro se pleadings, this court concluded that "a reasonable judge should have experienced doubt as to [the defendant's] competency" and remanded the case "to the trial court for a hearing to determine whether [the defendant] was competent to stand trial in September 2009." Id., slip op. at 6. We affirmed the judgments of the trial court in all other respects. See id., slip op. at 11.

Upon remand, the Chief Justice of our supreme court appointed Senior Judge Don R. Ash to preside over the defendant's case.

At the June 14, 2013 retrospective competency hearing, the defendant testified that before his evaluation at MTMHI, he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed Paxil. He had also been prescribed Depakote at one point. He did not take any prescribed medication in the two weeks just prior to his trial, admitting that he had refused his medications prior to trial because he "was afraid they'd – this is going to sound stupid, but I was afraid they was going to put disease in me because they hated me." He said that when he was properly medicated, he did not "get so blessed wound up, " explaining, "And I can see sometimes how I bounce around like a durned ping-pong ball. I wrote one complaint on [defense counsel] and I wrote the Board back and told them to drop it, I was sorry."

The defendant believed his first trial to be "one conspiracy" involving defense counsel, "the Judge, DA, " and a woman who worked for the DA's office designed to "railroad [him] on through the system." During his trial, he "started seeing shadow people out of the corners of [his] eyes." He said that he had "fired" other attorneys before his current counsel was appointed, and he accepted blame for their failure to work together.

During cross-examination, the defendant acknowledged that on May 27, 2008, he filed a petition for an order of protection to prevent the jail officials from making him take his medication. He identified a form signed by him on June 16, 2008, refusing all medical treatment or medical services from the Blount County Jail. This document specifically stated, "To discontinue all medications."

During the summer of 2008, the defendant filed a number of pro se motions, each of which was titled aptly and filed in the correct court and each of which cited appropriate legal authorities and asked for specific legal relief. On August 15, 2008, he filed a pro se motion for a forensic evaluation. The State exhibited the pleadings to the hearing.

At the conclusion of his testimony, the defendant told the court, "I get ill sometimes and I write bad letters, but that's just writing." Following this testimony, the defense rested.

Doctor Rokeya Farooque, an MTMHI forensic psychiatrist with 20 years' experience who conducted the forensic evaluation of the defendant, testified at the June 2013 hearing that at the time of the defendant's 2007 evaluation, "each and every letter" sent from MTMHI detailing the results of forensic evaluations, including the January 15, 2008 letter that caused this court concern, included the following statement: "This is to advise the Court that the evaluation psychiatrist is of the opinion that it will be necessary for the defendant to take psychiatric medication in order for his psychiatric condition to remain sufficiently stable to continue to be competent to stand trial." This boilerplate language was initially included because many of the patients seen at MTMHI were psychiatrically ill and did require medications to become and remain competent to stand trial. Doctor Farooque said that, after ...

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