255 N.E.2d 515 (Ind. 1970), 569S110, Jackson v. State

Docket Nº:569S110, 569S111.
Citation:255 N.E.2d 515, 253 Ind. 487
Party Name:Theon JACKSON, Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
Case Date:February 19, 1970
Court:Supreme Court of Indiana
 
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Page 515

255 N.E.2d 515 (Ind. 1970)

253 Ind. 487

Theon JACKSON, Appellant,

v.

STATE of Indiana, Appellee.

Nos. 569S110, 569S111.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

February 19, 1970

Robert Robinson, Frank E. Spencer, Indianapolis, for appellant.

Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Aaron T. Jahr, Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.

[253 Ind. 488] ARTERBURN, Judge.

Appellant was charged by affidavits with two counts of robbery. There was no trial on either charge of robbery. The only issue considered by the trial court was the mental capacity of the appellant to stand trial. A hearing on the issue resulted in the following order by the trial court:

'IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED by the Court that the defendant Theon Jackson be and hereby is committed to the Indiana Division of Mental Health to be confined until such time that the Division of Mental Health shall certify to this Court that the defendant is sane.'

Page 516

The evidence at the hearing, which was conducted to determine appellant's capacity to stand trial, consisted mostly of the testimony of two psychiatrists the trial court had appointed to examine the appellant. Their examination revealed that appellant was a deaf mute with a moderately severe intellectual defect. Both psychiatrists were of the opinion that appellant could neither understand the nature of the charges against him nor adequately participate in preparing his own defense. Appellant was found to be illiterate, which, when combined with his deaf mute condition, presented a major communication gap. Appellant's mental retardation, or feeblemindedness as one of the experts termed it, was such that his ability to learn sign language, or to learn to read or write, or both, was doubtful. Further testimony revealed that if appellant were to gain sufficient comprehension to stand trial it would be only as a result of developing a means of communication. But even then there was some doubt expressed as to whether appellant would be able to comprehend the charges.

The trial court, in ordering appellant's examination and confinement, acted pursuant to Burns' Ind.Stat.Ann. § 9--1706a (1969 Cum.Supp.) which reads as follows:

'Commitment before trial--Subsequent actions.--When at any time before the trial of any criminal cause or during the progress thereof and before the final submission of the cause to the court or jury trying the same, the court, either [253 Ind. 489] from his own knowledge or upon the suggestion of any person, has reasonable ground for believing the defendant to be insane, he shall immediately fix a time for a hearing to determine the question of the defendant's sanity and shall appoint two (2) competent disinterested physicians who shall examine the defendant upon the question of his sanity and testify concerning the same at the hearing. At the hearing, other evidence may be introduced to prove the defendant's sanity or insanity. If the court shall find that the defendant has comprehension sufficient to understand the nature of the criminal action against him and the proceedings thereon and to make his defense, the trial shall not be delayed or continued on the ground of the alleged insanity of the defendant. If the court shall find that the defendant has not comprehension sufficient to understand the proceedings and make his defense, the trial shall be delayed or continued on the ground of the alleged insanity of the defendant. If the court shall find that the defendant has not comprehension sufficient to understand the proceedings and make his defense, the court shall order the defendant committed to the department of mental health, to be confined by the department in an appropriate psychiatric institution. Whenever the defendant shall become sane the superintendent of the state psychiatric hospital shall certify the fact to the proper court, who shall enter an order on his record directing the sheriff to return the defendant, or the court may enter such order in the first instance whenever he shall be sufficiently advised of the defendant's restoration to sanity. Upon the return to court of any defendant so committed he or she shall then be placed upon trial for the criminal offense the same as if no delay or postponement had occurred by reason of defendant's insanity. (Acts 1951, ch. 238, § 2, p. 682; 1961, ch. 151, § 2, p. 329; 1963, ch. 91, § 1, p. 58; 1967 ch. 291, § 2, p. 946.) (emphais Added)

It is appellant's contention that the above quoted statute is inapplicable; that he was denied due process of law; that in view of the unlikelihood of his improvement, he was in effect given a 'life sentence'. Appellant further urges that his commitment should properly be to an institute for the feebleminded and not to an institute for the insane. In this regard appellant would have the appellee first dismiss all charges against the appellant and then make application for appellant's commitment

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to an institution for the feebleminded. [253 Ind. 490] Appellant makes specific reference to Muscatatuck State Hospital and Training Center which was established to provide care for the feebleminded. Burns' Ind.Stat.Ann. § 22--1801 et seq. It appears to us that appellant has failed to understand the statutory mechanisms set up by the legislature as they refer to the Department of Mental Health.

Burns' § 9--1706a, which we quoted above, requires the appellant be committed to 'the department of mental health, to be confined by the department in an appropriate psychiatric institution.' It is clear that it is the department's function to determine the appropriate facility for the appellant. The choice does not lie with the appellant. Thus, the appellant is to be confined in 'an appropriate psychiatric institution.' Appellant apparently equates the term 'psychiatric institution' with the term 'insane' and argues that appellant should not be committed to an institution for the insane. The statute is broader in scope than appellant would have us believe. First, an amendment made to § 9--1706a in 1967 is noteworthy. That amendment replaced the phrase 'insane hospital' with the present 'psychiatric hospital.' That amendment also gave the department more flexibility in dealing with various mental problems by substituting the phrase 'the court shall order the defendant committed to the...

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