Nowell v. Rees

In Nowell v. Rees, 219 Ariz. 399, 406, P 21, 199 P.3d 654, 661 (App. 2008), the Court held that the trial court may not order the accused committed for restoration treatment for longer than twenty-one months when he is found incompetent to stand trial. In Nowell, the court found the defendant incompetent in November 2004 but believed he could be restored and assigned a restoration treatment provider. 219 Ariz. at 401, P 2, 199 P.3d at 656. At the hearing to determine whether treatment had been successful and the defendant restored to competency, the court found that the defendant remained incompetent. Id. at 401-02, P 2, 199 P.3d at 656-57. At a subsequent hearing, and based on the report of a different provider, the court found that the defendant had been restored and the case was returned for trial. Id. at PP 2-3. Nowell filed a special action, and we vacated the competency determination and remanded the case for a new competency determination because the provider's report merely disagreed with the prior experts but did not explain that restoration efforts were effective. Id. at 402, P 4, 199 P.3d at 657. On remand, a new expert disagreed with the prior report, and the court found that the defendant remained incompetent. Id. at P 5. Nowell then filed a motion to dismiss and argued that the statute and rule required the action be dismissed because he had not been restored within twenty-one months. Id. at P 7. The court disagreed, and found "when a court finds that the doctor's report is not persuasive, the court must make a new finding that the defendant is not competent and restorable, starting the process anew." Id. at 403, P 8, 199 P.3d at 658. Nowell then filed another special action. After the Court examined the competency statutes and rules, we stated that "we cannot ignore the repeated statutory references to restoration of competency within twenty-one months after the date of the original finding of incompetency." Id. at 406, P 21, 199 P.3d at 661. After finding that the statutes mean what they say, we stated that "if a defendant has not regained competency within twenty-one months of the original finding of incompetency, no further attempts at restoration are allowed." Id. In Nowell, there was only one determination that the defendant was incompetent. Id. at 401, P 2, 199 P.3d at 656. Although he was subsequently found competent, the Court vacated that determination because the reviewing expert had not followed the statutory requirements. Id. at 402, PP 3-4, 199 P.3d at 657. On remand, the trial court found that Nowell was still incompetent, so that the original determination remained in effect. Id. at P 5.