Evidence – Physician – Patient Privilege – Applicability to Communication Between State Mental Hospital Psychiatrist and Criminal Internee
Defendant was committed to a public mental hospital before standing trial on an indictment for robbery. One year later he was brought to trial after being discharged from the hospital as mentally competent. His only defense was insanity. The psychiatrist who had been appointed by the court to examine the defendant testified in support of this defense. The prosecution, in turn, introduced the testimony of the hospital psychiatrist who had attended the defendant during his internment. This psychiatrist was instructed by the trial court that communications between him and the defendant were not privileged. Accordingly, he testified that the defendant had told him that his insanity was feigned. It was the hospital psychiatrist’s belief that at the time of the hospital examinations the defendant was competent to distinguish between right and wrong. Defendant was found guilty and convicted. On appeal, held, reversed, one judge dissenting. Information obtained by a psychiatrist of a public mental hospital while attending an inmate comes within the provisions of the District of Columbia privilege statute which makes such confidential information inadmissible in evidence. Taylor v. United States, (D.C. Cir. 1955) 222 F. (2d) 398.