Compassionate Release Denied for Defendant with Neurological Deficits from Brain Tumor
Recent Cases in Law and Neuroscience, Curated by the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior and the Shen Neurolaw Lab with support from the Dana Foundation
On March 5, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied Scott David McQuarrie’s motion for compassionate release. McQuarrie had argued that his brain tumor caused serious functional and cognitive impairments that diminished his ability to care for himself while in custody.
In 2018, McQuarrie was convicted of twelve counts related to false statements and conversion of collateral pledged for a loan from the Farm Service Agency and sentenced to serve concurrent terms of 70 months, 60 months, and 15 months. His sentence was enhanced because of an obstruction of justice charge he received for repeatedly interrupting jury selection proceedings before his trial.
After experiencing memory and ambulatory difficulties in federal custody, McQuarrie petitioned for compassionate release, arguing that his “ongoing neurological deficits including ‘speech, memory, and motor skills issues,’ constitute[d] ‘serious functional or cognitive impairments that substantially diminish his ability to care for himself.’” He also notified the court of his intent to introduce evidence that his tumor may have affected his conduct before and during his trial.
During a resentencing hearing in February, 2021, the defendant’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Brian Dalton, testified that he had performed a craniotomy and removed a grapefruit sized intracranial tumor from the defendant’s brain in June 2020. He stated that the tumor may have “caused some neurological symptoms like changes in personality and behavior,” for as long as a decade before McQuarrie’s surgery. He explained that the “defendant may achieve a full cognitive recovery but that some residual symptoms may persist,” recommending that he see a neuropsychologist for rehabilitation.
Following Dr. Dalton’s testimony, the court reduced McQuarrie’s sentence to concurrent terms of 60 months. However, the court concluded that his ongoing neurological deficits were not sufficiently “extraordinary and compelling” to justify an immediate compassionate release, asserting that the only reason the defendant had not received neuropsychological treatment was “because Dr. Dalton and prison officials [had] not yet successfully communicated regarding his treatment.”
The court noted that prison representatives in the courtroom had expressed willingness to accommodate McQuarrie’s future neurological treatment as directed by Dr. Dalton. Consequently, the court denied the defendant’s motion for compassionate release with prejudice.
Keywords: brain tumor, compassionate release, craniotomy, compelling reason, neurological
This post is the 93rd post as part of an ongoing Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB) series tracking the latest developments in law and neuroscience cases. To see previous posts about recent cases, see the full case archive on the CLBB website. To see updates on legal scholarship, see the Neurolaw News, hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. This project is made possible through support of the Dana Foundation.