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Court split over denial to commit man with dementia

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Although the majority on the Indiana Court of Appeals acknowledged it would have been better for the trial court to follow the statutory commitment procedures instead of outright denying the state’s motion to commit, it affirmed the trial court’s conclusion.

William Coats was charged with Class D felony sexual battery against his granddaughter. He has Alzheimer’s disease and a competency investigation led to two doctors diagnosing him with dementia and finding he will never be restored to competency. The state wanted Coats committed to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, but the trial court denied it.

The state argues that based on Indiana Code 35-36-3-1, the trial court is required to have Coats committed once an incompetency finding is made.

On interlocutory appeal in State of Indiana v. William Coats,49A02-1206-CR-526, Judges Michael Barnes and John Baker affirmed, citing Curtis v. State, 948 N.E.2d 1143 (Ind. 2011), and State v. J.S., 937 N.E.2d 831 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010).

“Although the better practice in most cases is to follow the statutory commitment procedures, given Coats’s progressive dementia and the trial court’s finding that he will not be restored to competency, the purposes of the competency restoration process cannot be met by following those procedures here. It is clear that Coats’s dementia will progress, and there simply is no hope nor medical reason to believe that competency will be restored,” Barnes wrote.

In her dissent, Judge Patricia Riley wrote that the statutory scheme does not allow the trial court discretion over the statutory commitment procedures.

“The trial court determines whether the defendant is incompetent in the first instance, but the statutory scheme entrusts the ultimate determination on competency to the superintendent, who has not only the skills to make such observations but also the time within which to do so,” she wrote.  

 

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