Justices to hear mental health commitment, murder appeals

The rights of respondents to be present at their mental health commitment hearings will be considered this week when the Indiana Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case in which a man was involuntarily committed for mental health treatment without being present at his hearing.

Oral arguments in the case of Commitment of A.A. v. Eskenazi Health Midtown CMHC, 49S02-1711-MH-00688, will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday. That case began when a Marion Superior judge ordered A.A.’s regular commitment to Eskenazi Health’s Midtown Community Mental Health Clinic after holding a hearing that A.A. did not attend. A.A.’s counsel told the judge the respondent was “agitated” and did not answer the phone to discuss the hearing, so his presence was waived.

During oral arguments before the Indiana Court of Appeals in June, counsel for Eskenazi urged the court to provide guidance on how to proceed in such cases, and the appellate panel offered that guidance by determining respondents such as A.A. cannot voluntarily waive their right to be present at civil commitment hearings. However, trial courts can waive respondents’ rights when their presence at the court would be “injurious.”

Under that standard, The Indiana Southern District Court will implement new rules relating to Social Security appeals and indigent defense fee agreements when two amendments take effect on Jan. 1. The Court of Appeals upheld A.A.’s commitment. The high court has accepted transfer over the case.

Finally, the justices will hear oral arguments on petition to transfer in a case that could give a convicted murderer a new trial. In Adrian Durden v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1701-CR-00188, Adrian Durden was convicted of murder and eight drug-related counts, but only after one of his original jurors was released and replaced by an alternate after deliberations had already begun. The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered the trial court to give Durden a new trial after determining in August that releasing the juror after deliberations had begun warranted reversal of his convictions.

The justices will consider whether to take the case during oral arguments at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.  

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