STATE v. PEDRO CUSTODIO, SC 18767
Judicial District of Waterbury
Criminal; Competency; Personal Jurisdiction; Whether General Statutes § 54-56d (m), as Amended, Applied Retroactively to Authorize Trial Court to Order Periodic Competency Exams; Whether Trial Court Properly Exercised Personal Jurisdiction over the Defendant. In 1991, the defendant was charged with murder. Following competency hearings that were held pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 1991) § 54-56d, the trial court found that there was no substantial probability that the defendant would regain competence, and it ordered him committed to the custody of the commissioner of mental health. In 2010, upon being informed that the defendant had been released months after being committed and that his criminal file was open, the court ordered a hearing. The defendant, having not been notified of the hearing, did not appear, and the court ordered his arrest for failure to appear. After the defendant was arraigned, the court dismissed the failure to appear charge and, as to the murder charge, scheduled a competency hearing. Section 54-56d (m) was amended by Public Acts 1998, No. 98-88, § 2, to authorize a court to order, as a condition of release, periodic competency examinations of an incompetent defendant charged with the commission of a crime that resulted in death or serious injury. Following the hearing, the court found that the defendant remained incompetent and that his competency could not be restored. Pursuant to § 54-56d (m), as amended, the court ordered that the defendant be committed to the custody of the commissioner and that he submit to periodic competency evaluations. On appeal to the Appellate Court (126 Conn. App. 539), the defendant challenged the retroactive application of § 54-56d (m), the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over him, and the order that he submit to periodic competency evaluations. The Appellate Court concluded that the trial court properly determined that § 54-56d (m) applied retroactively. It observed that the legislature had amended the statute to create a mechanism for following the progress of released defendants who have no substantial probability of regaining competency. Finding that the amendment was therefore remedial in nature and did not create, define or regulate a right, the court determined that the statute was presumed to apply retroactively. The court also determined that the trial court properly exercised personal jurisdiction over the defendant, finding that any impropriety in the manner in which he was brought before the court was harmless in light of the court's continuing jurisdiction over his criminal case. The Appellate Court further ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering periodic competency evaluations when there was no possibility that the defendant would ever regain competence. The Supreme Court will now review the Appellate Court's determinations.