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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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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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