The appellant, Patrick Newman, filed an interlocutory application to appeal a jury verdict finding him competent to stand trial on a murder charge. OCGA 17-7-130
. We granted the application to consider whether the trial court erred in charging the jury that a person is presumed to be sane, and whether the court erred in excluding evidence Newman offered of prior adjudications concerning his mental condition. We reverse.
On September 14, 1982, the Probate Court of Chatham County found that Newman was mentally incapacitated and incapable of taking care of his affairs. In its findings of fact the court stated that Newman "does not have the mental capacity to even understand the proceedings of the Court." The court therefore appointed a permanent guardian for Newman. See OCGA 29-5-1
On October 5, 1983, Newman was indicted for the murder of his brother. A Chatham County jury convicted Newman of the crime in August 1984. At trial Newman's attorney did not raise any issues concerning his mental condition. Newman's present counsel was appointed for purposes of appeal. He discovered the probate court had adjudicated Newman incompetent in 1982, and filed a motion for new trial based on trial counsel's failure to pursue any insanity or incompetency issues. The trial court granted the motion.
Thereafter, Newman filed a plea of mental incompetency to stand trial. That plea was tried in February 1987. The jury returned a verdict in Newman's favor. The trial court then transferred Newman to the Department of Human Resources (the Department) under 17-7-130
(a). OCGA 17-7-130
(b) requires the Department to evaluate all such persons within 90 days of the transfer, to determine whether the person is presently mentally competent to stand trial. If the person is competent, the Department discharges the person into the custody of a law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction of the court that committed the person to the Department. OCGA 17-7-130
(e). The person returned to the court is entitled to file another plea of mental incompetency. OCGA 17-7-130
The Department found Newman competent to stand trial and returned him to the custody of the Chatham County Superior Court. Newman then filed the plea of mental incompetency that is the subject of this appeal. At the trial of the plea, the trial court excluded evidence of the probate court's appointment of a guardian and of the February 1987 jury verdict finding Newman incompetent to stand trial. Further, the court charged the jury that all persons are presumed to be sane. Newman objected to the exclusion of the evidence and to the charge. The jury returned a verdict finding Newman competent to stand trial. Newman then filed his application to appeal, which we granted to consider whether the court erred in excluding the above evidence and in charging the jury on the presumption of sanity.
The Gilbert case applied the predecessor of OCGA 17-7-130
, which was Code 1933 27-1502. Gilbert appealed from his conviction of armed robbery, arguing only that the trial court 1
erred in finding him sane at the time of the offense. The evidence showed that Gilbert previously had been charged with rape and had filed a special plea of insanity, contending he was not competent to stand trial for the rape. 2
The jury returned a verdict in his favor. At that time Code 1933 27-1502 provided that a person found incompetent to stand trial would be delivered to "Milledgeville State Hospital, there to remain until discharged in the manner prescribed by law," see Gilbert, supra, 235 Ga. at 501. The hospital released Gilbert after a few months, pursuant to Code Ann. 88-506.7, as enacted by Ga. L. 1969, pp. 505, 530-531. 3
As Gilbert noted, that code section provided that the state hospital could release a patient who faced criminal charges to the custody of the proper peace officer when the superintendent of the state hospital found that the patient no longer met the criteria for involuntary treatment. Gilbert, supra, 235 Ga. at 502.
This court concluded that the jury's finding of insanity on the rape charge raised a presumption of insanity, but that Gilbert's administrative release cancelled that presumption and raised a presumption of sanity during the armed robbery trial. Id. at 501-502. Accord Ross v. State, 217 Ga. 569
, 570 (1) (124 SE2d 280
) (1962). See also Brown v. State, 250 Ga. 66
, 70, fn. 2 (295 SE2d 727
A similar situation exists in this case. The prior adjudications by the probate court and the superior court raised a presumption of mental incompetency. 4
However, Newman's administrative release by the Department under 17-7-130
cancelled that presumption of incompetency and raised a presumption of competency. The trial court therefore correctly charged the jury on the presumption of competency.
2. With regard to whether the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the Newman's prior adjudications, we again find that the issue is controlled by Gilbert, supra, 235 Ga. There, we stated that although the administrative release cancelled the presumption of insanity, the prior adjudication constituted evidence tending to show Gilbert's mental condition, which the factfinder could consider. Id. at 502. We therefore conclude that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of Newman's prior adjudications. Accordingly, Newman is entitled to a new trial on the issue of his competency to stand trial.
Spencer Lawton, Jr., District Attorney, John E. Morse, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, Michael J. Bowers, Attorney General, for appellee.