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Judges find ruling denied mentally ill man's due process rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed today the denial of a mentally ill man’s motion to dismiss charges against him because not dismissing the charges was a violation of his due process rights.

Alva Curtis, 58, has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. He has little education and is unable to do many basic household chores, according to court documents. He also suffers from dementia, which is getting worse.

He was living with a friend when Curtis allegedly yelled at his neighbor as the neighbor walked by. Authorities also alleged Curtis followed the man into the neighbor’s home, hit him with a wooden chair, and damaged property. Curtis was charged with residential entry, battery, and criminal mischief. He was released from jail nearly a month after the incident and ended up in a long-term, locked facility before being moved to a rehabilitation and nursing facility.

Two doctors conducted psychiatric examinations of Curtis and determined he was unable to understand the proceedings against him, assist his attorney, and would likely never be restored to competency. 

The trial court denied his motion to dismiss and refused to commit Curtis to the Indiana Department of Mental Health and Addictions based on the cost to the state. On interlocutory appeal, the appellate court overturned the denial in Alva Curtis v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0911-CR-1106.

The judges relied on State v. Davis, 898 N.E.2d 281, 285 (Ind. 2008), in finding Curtis’ due process rights had been violated. They rejected the state’s argument that Davis is distinguishable because Davis had been committed by the state and confined for longer than the maximum period of time that she could have served in prison.

The appellate court didn’t fault the trial court for not committing Curtis in order to save money, but that rationale doesn’t support the decision to deny dismissing the charging information. Although part of the Davis holding was premised on the defendant’s confinement, the appellate court also explained the mere act of holding criminal charges indefinitely over the head of someone who won’t ever be able to prove his innocence is a violation of due process rights, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

The judges also quoted and joined Court of Appeals Judge Paul Mathias’ concerns written in a separate opinion in Habibzadah v. State, 904 N.E.2d 367, 369 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), in which the judge observed the inadequacy of our current criminal justice procedures with regard to mentally ill defendants.
 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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