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Justices: Man with Alzheimer’s must be committed per statute

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Noting the trial court had the best of intentions when it did not order a man with Alzheimer’s disease committed, the Indiana Supreme Court pointed out the trial court had to order his commitment under Indiana Code 35-36-3-1(b) after he was found not competent to stand trial.

William Coats faces a charge of Class D felony sexual battery against his granddaughter. He was born in 1943 and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was evaluated by a psychiatrist and psychologist who found he was not competent to stand trial. The two also opined there was little likelihood he would be able to be restored to competency.

After the trial court found Coats incompetent to stand trial, the state filed a written request to commit him to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction pursuant to I.C. 35-36-3-1(b). Coats filed a motion to dismiss the charge, arguing since he cannot be restored to competency, commitment would violate his due process and equal protection rights. The trial court denied both motions; the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the commitment, with Judge Patricia Riley dissenting.

Justice Steven David pointed out in State of Indiana v. William Coats, 49S02-1305-CR-328, that the language of I.C. 35-36-3-1-3, -3, and -4 is unambiguous. There are steps that must be followed in determining a defendant’s competency to stand trial. The statute does not give trial court discretion to refuse to commit a defendant once it determines that he or she is not competent to stand trial, David wrote.

The justices also rejected Coats’ claim that Jackson v. Indiana, 406 U.S. 715 (1972), State v. Davis, 898 N.E.2d 281 (Ind. 2008), and Curtis v. State, 948 N.E.2d 1143 (Ind. 2011), support his argument that he should have the charge against him dismissed.

“In all likelihood, the trial court here was motivated by the probability that Coats, at the time nearly seventy years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, is unlikely to ever be competent to stand trial,” David wrote. “Although the trial court had the best of intentions, it was bound to follow Ind. Code chapter 35-36-3 and had no discretion to substitute its determination as to whether Coats would eventually attain competency for that of the superintendent of the state institution where he should have been committed. Only by following the strict statutory framework set forth by the legislature in Ind. Code chapter 35-36-3 can both the interests of the State and Coats be protected.”
 

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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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