Judge: Man should be civilly committed, not incarcerated

July 28, 2016

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Paul Mathias again used an opinion to highlight problems he sees in the criminal justice system when dealing with defendants with mental health issues.

Anthony Wampler was charged with two counts of burglary and alleged to be a habitual offender after he was arrested for entering K.S.’s home and taking a beer and an inspirational note off of the refrigerator. Wampler also stood and watched who he believed was K.S. sleep for a while. He later referenced drinking the stolen beer and the note in one of his Facebook posts. Wampler had known K.S. since elementary school in the 1970s and had developed a crush and obsession with him. In 1995 he began keeping a notebook on K.S. that contained newspaper clippings on him, and notes by Wampler. That same year he also stopped taking medication for his mental illness issues.

He started leaving notes for K.S. and taking things off his property. After the burglary, Wampler thought perhaps the person leaving the notes may be connected and called a phone number left on a note. Wampler answered and admitted to breaking in.

At first, Wampler was found incompetent to stand trial, but was later restored to competency and convicted as charged. The judge entered only one conviction on double jeopardy concerns, leading to a sentence of 18 years on the burglary conviction, enhanced by 15 years for being a habitual offender.

The majority, made up of Judges Michael Barnes and Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik, affirmed Wampler’s sentence, the only matter he appealed. While they acknowledged his lifelong struggle with mental health problems, he stopped using psychiatric drugs from 1995 until he was placed in an inpatient facility during this case. He also has several criminal convictions, including Class D felony criminal mischief from 1995 and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia in 2013.

Mathias dissented, as he has in at least four other cases dealing with defendants with mental health issues.

“Wampler was seriously mentally ill for years before this eerie and bizarre burglary. In all likelihood, he was also so mentally ill at the time of the crime that he could not have formed the requisite scienter so as to be criminally responsible for his behavior. Had his psychiatric examination been directed to his mental health at the time of the crime, rather than to his ability to assist his counsel at trial, he could have been, and should have been, civilly committed to a state mental health institution, rather than charged with a crime,” Mathias wrote. “This is a clear case of punishing someone for mental illness rather than having any interest in humanely recognizing the difference between mental illness and criminal behavior. We Hoosiers are better than that, and indeed, I believe that Article 1, Sections 15, 16 and 18 of the Constitution of Indiana expect us to be better than that.”

He also said the “real tragedy” is that Wampler was not tried under the “closest alternatives we have to humane treatment of the mentally ill: as insane at the time of the behavior charged or as someone who was guilty but mentally ill.”

Mathias would reverse the sentence and remand with instructions to impose the minimum sentence of six years with a 10-year habitual offender enhancement.

The case is Anthony J. Wampler v. State of Indiana, 14A05-1510-CR-1606.


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