Thursday, November 9, 2006
Retarded Man Held Entitled to Jury Trial on Commitment
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A person may not be committed to a state facility as a mentally retarded person who is a danger to himself or others unless he has been told of his right to a jury trial, and must be found to have “serious difficulty” in controlling dangerous behavior, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The court reversed Shasta Superior Court Judge Anthony Anderson, who committed Alexander Nathan Bailie to the Department of Developmental Services for one year after finding that Bailie “is kind of a danger to himself and others.”
In September 2005, the Shasta County Counsel’s Office filed a petition for an order committing Bailie to DDS for care and treatment under Welfare and Business Code Sec. 6500. The petition alleged that Bailie “is a mentally retarded person who is a danger to himself or others.”
At a contested hearing before Anderson, sitting without a jury, a psychologist and therapist testified for the county. Bailie and his mother testified on his behalf.
Bailie was never told that he had a right to a jury trial. After Anderson ordered him committed, Bailie appealed, arguing that Anderson erred in failing to advise him of his right to a jury trial, or to secure his waiver of that right.
Bailie also contended his conviction should be reversed because the statutory scheme doesn’t require, the petition did not allege, and the county counsel did not prove that his mental retardation made it “seriously difficult” for him to control his dangerous behavior.
The Third District agreed, finding that mentally retarded people have both an equal protection and due process right to a jury trial. Justice Vance W. Raye, writing for the court, and quoting an earlier decision, said:
“We think it is beyond dispute that the right to a jury trial in adult involuntary commitment proceedings is a right of constitutional dimension. Where ‘a constitutional right exists, it must be observed unless waived and . . . a waiver implies, among other things, a knowledge that the right existed.’ . . . Consequently, a defendant . . . must be advised of his right to a jury trial.”
Noting that, in order to preserve the constitutionality of commitments for those with mental disorders other than mental retardation, the court previously held that the “extended detention scheme should be interpreted to contain a requirement of serious difficulty in controlling dangerous behavior,” Raye said:
“We now conclude that those same principles apply to Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 6500 commitments as well.”
The case is People v. Bailie, C051476.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company