Type of Evaluation
The defendant in this case, 29-year-old Mr. Charles Mills, was evaluated for approximately three hours in response to a Superior Court Order requesting an independent evaluation of his criminal responsibility at the time of the alleged offenses. He was charged with Armed Robbery, Aggravated Assault and Murder after he allegedly robbed a retail store and assaulted and fatally shot the store clerk.
Sources of Information
A clinical interview with Mills
Results of the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test (M-FAST)
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Records
Mr. Mills’ Criminal History
Records from the County Sheriff’s Office
Mental Health records from a psychiatric hospital and outpatient provider
Four prior forensic evaluations
County School District Records
Review of defendant’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram Accounts including:
Mr. Mills was born in Florida and was raised primarily by his biological mother. His biological father was involved sporadically throughout his life. Mr. Mills was temporarily placed in foster care on three to four occasions during his childhood due to verbal and physical abuse by his mother. He moved to Georgia shortly before his current incarceration to live near an ex-girlfriend and her children. He reported that he does not have any biological children but assisted in the upbringing of his ex-girlfriend’s children and considered them to be his own.
Mr. Mills reported considerable behavioral difficulties throughout his childhood. School records showed that he was placed in an Emotionally Handicapped program for behavioral problems in elementary school (e.g., crying outbursts, aggression, hyperactivity). He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in elementary school and was treated with Ritalin and later Adderall. Mr. Mills continued to receive a variety of services throughout school (e.g., placement in separate classrooms and educational programs, time to cool-down as needed, use of Individual Education Plans [IEP’s], etc.), but records suggest that the majority of interventions were not effective. Mr. Mills fell behind in math and reading due to significant disruption in his education caused by his behaviors such as missing time from class due to suspensions. He eventually graduated from high school, although commented that he was “surprised” he did so considering his ongoing behavior problems.
Mr. Mills’ work history was sporadic and types of employment ranged from construction to fast food. He was last employed several months prior to his incarceration. He never received social security benefits and did not have a military history.
Regarding medical history, Mr. Mills reported being stabbed in the head seven or eight years prior to the current evaluation. He stated that he received staples to treat his head wound and experienced minor memory problems shortly after the incident. He also noted one incident when he punched out a car window and claimed that he subsequently woke up in a hospital. He denied any lasting impacts from either incident.
Mr. Mills reported that he first drank alcohol at nineteen years of age and subsequently drank once every other month. He stated that, outside of periods of confinement, he used several drugs regularly including marijuana, cocaine, and Ecstasy. He began using these substances between seventeen and nineteen years of age and continued to use marijuana up until his current incarceration, including on the day of the alleged offenses. Mr. Mills denied use or abuse of any other substances. He also denied ever receiving substance use treatment but noted that he once had his stomach pumped for alcohol poisoning. He endorsed a history of two convictions for possession of marijuana and one conviction for possession of cocaine.
Mr. Mills had an extensive criminal history dating back to his juvenile years, with records reflecting more than 20 charges. These charges included various drug-related charges, possession of weapons, Robbery, Assault, and Armed Robbery. He was convicted or plead guilty to the majority of these charges. In 2017, Mr. Mills was opined incompetent to stand trial on two counts of Armed Robbery. Two evaluations were completed at that time, with one evaluator opining that psychosis impaired his competency abilities while another opined him incompetent due to an Intellectual Disability. After treatment in a psychiatric facility, a third evaluator opined that Mr. Mills was restored to competency. The competency finding was contested and the court ordered the original evaluator to provide an updated evaluation. Without reevaluating Mr. Mills, the original evaluator opined that Mr. Mills was incompetent to stand trial due to an Intellectual Disability and not restorable. The court concurred with this opinion and Mr. Mills was released to the community with outpatient mental health treatment, after which he moved to Georgia without notifying authorities in Florida.
Behavioral Observations and Mental Status
Mr. Mills was dressed in standard correctional attire and was handcuffed at the wrists. His hygiene and grooming were adequate. He was cooperative throughout the interview; however, during the competency portion of the interview, he became notably less engaged. When asked about the change in his presentation, he expressed fatigue with the evaluation and reported having a headache. The evaluators offered to return on another day to complete the evaluation, but Mr. Mills agreed to proceed. He demonstrated improved effort following that interaction. During the course of the interview, he took two breaks which lasted approximately five minutes each. Mr. Mills clearly communicated to the evaluators and appeared to understand the communication of the evaluators. He spoke at an appropriate pace and volume and there was no apparent disturbance in his thought processes. His affect was primarily flat, although generally congruent to the topics discussed. Mills did not at any point in the evaluation appear to be responding to internal stimuli.
Mr. Mills described his current mood was “aggravated,” and that he experienced periods of aggravation every few days. He described this aggravation as tenseness in his body that did not “mess with (him) emotionally.” Mr. Mills endorsed intermittent insomnia but stated that his energy was good. He denied any disturbance in his appetite, although reported that he has never had a large appetite. He denied any other mood symptoms, including thoughts of self-harm.
During the interview, Mr. Mills spontaneously endorsed auditory hallucinations. Specifically, when discussing his job history that involved an altercation with a coworker, he stated that he thought the coworker was “coming at me with a hammer.” Mr. Mills was asked why he thought that, and he laughed and replied, “John said.” He then described that he hears a male voice whom he calls “John” and stated that “John,” watches over him and helps him, such as telling him to watch everyone. Mr. Mills provided the example that he was involved in an altercation with another inmate two days prior to the evaluation because the voice informed him that the other inmate was going to attack him. Mr. Mills reported that he hears one male voice and stated that the voice does not ever instruct him to hurt others. At a different period in the interview, however, he stated that he hears “voices all day every day.” He stated that his medications have variable efficacy in treating the auditory hallucinations. Regarding any other symptoms of psychosis, Mr. Mills described some paranoia which he related to what “John” tells him but denied any other symptoms such as visual hallucinations.
Given Mr. Mills’ report of frequent auditory hallucinations, he was asked to notify the examiners if he was actively experiencing a hallucination during the evaluation. He was also specifically queried on two occasions if he had experienced any hallucinations during the interview. On one occasion after providing an interpretation of a common parable, Mr. Mills commented that “John” told him another answer. He was asked if “John’s” answer was the same as his own answer and was asked to tell the evaluators what “John” said. He commented that “John’s” answer was “not the same,” but circumvented the question regarding what specifically he heard. He was prompted to answer the question multiple times and eventually provided the evaluators with the same response he previously had with minor variation in wording. He did not provide any other examples of auditory hallucinations which he reportedly heard during the evaluation.
Mr. Mills was screened for other symptoms including anxiety and trauma-related symptoms. He reported that the voice he hears makes him to “think the worst,” but he denied any other issues.
Lastly, given Mr. Mills’ prior diagnosis of an intellectual disability, the evaluators screened Mr. Mills for deficits in his adaptive functioning. He reported that he was capable of budgeting money for purchases, although never learned how to pay bills. He stated that he never needed to learn such skills because he always lived with someone. Mr. Mills was asked why he always lived with someone and he reported feeling “afraid” to live alone and commented that he used to “see things” when he was “ten or eleven” years old such as “red eyes” which would be “gone when the light on.” He also stated that he watched “too many scary movies.” Mr. Mills denied experiencing any problems attending to other tasks of daily living such as personal hygiene, which was consistent with the evaluators’ observations and jail records. Throughout the course of the interview, Mr. Mills used adequate vocabulary and did not appear to have any difficulty understanding the communication of the evaluators. For example, he did not ask the evaluators to use simpler language or explain any concepts to him. Further, he spontaneously used various terms such as “double jeopardy” of which he demonstrated a good understanding.
Summary of Test Results
Given concerns regarding potential feigning, Mr. Mills was also administered the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test (M-FAST). The M-FAST screens for a variety of intentionally disingenuous response styles, such as endorsing unusual combinations of symptoms, reporting atypically severe and pervasive symptoms, and endorsing uncommon psychotic symptoms. Mr. Mills was somewhat fatigued when he began the M-FAST and reported that he had a headache. Although he expressed a desire for the interview to be over, he agreed to continue with the evaluation rather than the evaluators returning on another day. Mr. Mills’ score of 5 on the M-FAST was below the suggested cut-off score of 6 and so was not indicative of feigning.
Based on all available data, it was determined that Mr. Mills met criteria for the following diagnosis:
Summary of Data Relevant to Psycho-Legal Question
Records and Interview Video from the Sheriff’s Office
Police responded to a report of an armed robbery at a retail store and found a deceased female victim, later identified as the store clerk, with a gunshot wound to her abdomen. The register was noted to be open and empty. Surveillance video showed Mr. Mills entering the store around the time of the alleged offenses and witnesses reported that Mr. Mills had a bag of money later that evening. Evidence, including blood spatter analysis, wounds and other markings found on the victim, and analysis of the trajectory of the bullet, indicated that the victim had been bludgeoned on the head prior to her death and was kneeling on the floor when she was shot at point-blank range.
During interview with investigators, Mr. Mills at first declined to discuss the alleged offenses. He demonstrated caution when answering questions and directly stated to investigators on multiple occasions that he could not answer certain questions because the information could be incriminating and everything could be used against him. Mr. Mills admitted to being at the store but denied any wrongdoing. Later in the interview, he admitted to shooting the victim, although reported that the gun accidentally fired. He stated that his plan was to rob the store and he had no intention to shoot the victim, but as he was waving the gun around in front of the victim, it accidentally fired. He reported that he thought the gun was on safety. He expressed remorse about the incident and became tearful when talking about the likelihood that he would spend the rest of his life in prison for his actions. Investigators confronted him about the evidence suggesting that the victim was shot at point-blank range while kneeling and that she had been struck in the head; however, Mr. Mills denied any such actions.
Mr. Mills’ Account of the Alleged Offenses During the Evaluation
Mr. Mills reported he could not remember much of the details of the alleged offenses. He stated that he intended to rob the store clerk and while demanding money from her, the gun accidentally fired. He denied purposefully assaulting the store clerk or shooting her at close range. He reported that after taking the money, he called a friend to pick him up and he left the scene. He stated he was hearing the voice of “John” around the time of the alleged offenses which he described as making him feel generally paranoid. He did not, however, endorse feeling afraid of the store clerk at any point. He further did not endorse any command hallucinations or other symptoms at the time of the alleged offenses. Mr. Mills reported he had smoked marijuana earlier in the day of the alleged offenses but denied being under the influence at the time of the incident.
Clinical Forensic Opinion
Although Mr. Mills was previously diagnosed with Intellectual Disability and Schizoaffective Disorder, it was the opinion of the evaluators that Mr. Mills did not meet criteria for either of these disorders. Indeed, the only diagnosis rendered by the evaluators was Antisocial Personality Disorder. The evaluators did not observe any indications of an Intellectual Disability including impairments in intellectual functioning (e.g., deficits in vocabulary, understanding, processing speed) or adaptive functioning, nor did records reveal any such issues. Mr. Mills denied involvement in the alleged offenses, although he reported that he was hearing the voice of “John” at that time, he did not in any way relate the voice to the alleged offenses. Further, his current report of auditory hallucinations was questionable, and not consistent with records (i.e., he had never reported hearing “John” before the evaluation). Additionally, even if Mr. Mills were experiencing similar symptoms at the time of the alleged offenses, there is no indication that these symptoms would have precluded his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Rather, available information suggested that Mr. Mills fled the scene, hid the money at a friend’s house, gave the weapon to another individual to hide, and lied to investigators about his involvement on multiple occasions. All of these behaviors suggested that he was attempting to conceal his involvement in the alleged offenses and thus understood his actions to be wrong. Social media revealed that Mr. Mills was previously in possession of a weapon illegally given his videos showing him in possession of a gun while he was on probation and also revealed that that he had a history of gang involvement. This suggested that Mr. Mills’ behaviors at the time of the alleged offenses were not limited in scope to that one incident and motivated by mental illness at that time, but rather had been ongoing for several years. This is further corroborated by Mr. Mills’ lengthy criminal record, including previous charges and convictions for similar crimes such as Robbery, assault charges incurred during a robbery, and Armed Robbery. These prior arrests should have also facilitated Mr. Mills’ understanding of the legal wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the alleged offenses given that he had been convicted of similar charges in the past (i.e., knowing that he could be arrested for Armed Robbery). In sum, there was no indication that Mr. Mills could not distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the alleged offenses. Rather, the available information suggested that he was able to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the alleged offenses and, therefore, can be held criminally responsible.
No specific recommendations were offered as part of this evaluation.
How Did Social Media Impact This Case?
Social media was brought into this case from a prior evaluation during which Mr. Mills reportedly noted a variety of adaptive functioning deficits. The prior evaluation indicated that Mr. Mills could use the Internet for basic tasks such as viewing Facebook but was so impaired because of his intellectual deficits that he was not capable of more complex tasks. The evaluators conducted a search for Mr. Mills and discovered that he had his own YouTube channel where had uploaded multiple videos. The videos were primarily of him rapping, some of which were reportedly raps that he wrote himself. Further search revealed that Mr. Mills had multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts which he updated with various posts and used appropriate language. This was in stark contrast to the description of him in his prior evaluation as being unable to perform anything but very basic daily tasks and having considerably impaired intellectual functioning. Additionally, Mr. Mills was depicted holding a gun in several videos and the content of his raps primarily focused on criminal activity such as shooting and robbery. At the time when the videos were posted, Mr. Mills would have been on probation and prohibited from possessing a weapon. He frequently flashed gang symbols in the videos and talked about being a “soldier” in a gang. Thus, the content of the videos suggested a history of interest and engagement in risky behaviors, again rather than Mr. Mills’ behaviors at the time of the alleged offenses being limited to that instance and attributable to a mental illness.