ILNews

COA: 'Serious deficiency' in treating mentally ill

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2009
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A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals used an opinion today to highlight what it considered a "serious deficiency" in the statutes for the treatment of developmentally disabled and mentally ill people in the state's criminal courts.

"Simply said, the Indiana statutory framework allows courts to recognize the mental illness of a criminal defendant only in terms of guilt for the crime alleged, rather than as a condition that prevents the defendant's ability to form a punishable intention to commit the crime alleged in the first instance," wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

The judges examined the state's statutes regarding people who lack sufficient comprehension to stand trial for a criminal offense in Steven Thomas and Derrick Dausman v. Anne Waltermann Murphy, in her official capacity as secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, et al., No. 49A02-0812-CV-1140. Steven Thomas and Derrick Dausman appealed the entry of summary judgment for Anne Waltermann Murphy, as secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, and Gina Eckhart, director of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, in their request for a preliminary injunction preventing the DMHA from placing criminal defendants who lack sufficient comprehension to stand trial in a state institution when medical and psychiatric treatment professionals recommend placement in a less restrictive setting. The trial court found the issues weren't ripe for determination.

Thomas and Dausman are developmentally disabled individuals charged with child molestation and found to possess insufficient comprehension to stand trial. Both had medical professionals recommend they be treated on an outpatient basis, but their treatment teams didn't make that recommendation and they were committed to the DMHA based on Indiana Code Chapter 35-36-3. Dausman was released on bond in April 2009 after the trial court found the state failed to establish the statutory criteria for regular commitment had been met. Thomas may never be released because he may never be found competent to stand trial.

Criminal defendants found incompetent to stand trial are committed to the DMHA for competency restoration services; DMHA doesn't provide or contract for outpatient or community-based placement alternatives. It believes community-based services wouldn't provide adequate supervision or monitoring for those charged with crimes, and those services would require more resources and funding than the FSSA and DMHA have available.

The appellate court agreed that Thomas and Dausman's issues weren't ripe for adjudication. Dausman has since been released on bond and he failed to show he suffered any hardship because of the application of the DMHA's policy regarding incompetent defendants. Thomas' claims were based on the possibility that he would be able to participate in community-based treatment if and when his treatment team would make that recommendation. His claims were abstract and lack factual basis.

The judges also noted Dausman's situation highlights problems in the treatment of the mentally ill and developmentally disabled in criminal courts. Current law doesn't have a procedure to determine whether Dausman had the necessary mens rea at the time of the alleged molestation to commit the offense, Judge Mathias wrote. The DMHA interprets the statute mandating competency restoration services to extend to those who will never be able to reach even a minimal level of competency.

"Our criminal justice system needs an earlier and intervening procedure to determine competency retroactively to the time of the alleged crime," he wrote. "Perhaps we as a society need to consider the concept of a defendant being unchargeable because of mental illness under Indiana Code section 35-41-3-6, and not just guilty but mentally ill under Indiana Code chapter 35-36-2."
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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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