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Eighth Circuit Denied an Escapee's Insufficient Psychiatric Claim

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a 5th Amendment claim for due process violation for the right to present a defense.

James Edward Thornberg, a federal prisoner in Duluth, Minnesota before he escaped, was serving a 96-month sentence for wire fraud and money laundering. After escaping after a year into his imprisonment, he was apprehended six years later. Thornberg was charged with escape from custody. In spite of his not guilty plea by reason of insanity, the jury convicted him on escape and the district court sentenced him to 30 months imprisonment. Thornberg appealed.

Thornberg claimed the forensic psychologist was unable to obtain some of his medical records from prior to his incarceration. Thus, the expert lacked the complete history to make an accurate evaluation of his mental state. He also alleged this resulted in ineffective assistance of counsel.

Eighth Circuit ruled that the district court did not err in denying Thornberg's request for a second evaluation. The relevant part pertaining to the period of escape was sufficient to determine his mental state at the time of the escape. Since Thornberg also raised ineffective assistance of counsel claims against each of his three court appointed attorneys, the Eight Circuit concluded that Thornberg lacked the rare circumstance where a record does not require additional factual development on the ineffective assistance of counsel. Thus, he will have to bring the claim on collateral review. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. See: United States v. Thornberg, 676 F.3d 703 (8th Cir. 2012).

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Related legal case

United States v. Thornberg