504 U.S. 71 (1992), 90-5844, Foucha v. Louisiana

Docket Nº:No. 90-5844
Citation:504 U.S. 71, 112 S.Ct. 1780, 118 L.Ed.2d 437, 60 U.S.L.W. 4359
Party Name:Foucha v. Louisiana
Case Date:May 18, 1992
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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504 U.S. 71 (1992)

112 S.Ct. 1780, 118 L.Ed.2d 437, 60 U.S.L.W. 4359

Foucha

v.

Louisiana

No. 90-5844

United States Supreme Court

May 18, 1992

Argued Nov. 4, 1992

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF LOUISIANA

Syllabus

Under Louisiana law, a criminal defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity may be committed to a psychiatric hospital. If a hospital review committee thereafter recommends that the acquittee be released, the trial court must hold a hearing to determine whether he is dangerous to himself or others. If he is found to be dangerous, he may be returned to the hospital whether or not he is then mentally ill. Pursuant to this statutory scheme, a state court ordered petitioner Foucha, an insanity acquittee, returned to the mental institution to which he had been committed, ruling that he was dangerous on the basis of, inter alia, a doctor's testimony that he had recovered from the drug-induced psychosis from which he suffered upon commitment, and was "in good shape" mentally; that he has, however, an antisocial personality, a condition that is not a mental disease and is untreatable; that he had been involved in several altercations at the institution; and that, accordingly, the doctor would not "feel comfortable in certifying that he would not be a danger to himself or to other people." The State Court of Appeals refused supervisory writs, and the State Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that Jones v. United States, 463 U.S. 354, did not require Foucha's release, and that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was not violated by the statutory provision permitting confinement of an insanity acquittee based on dangerousness alone.

Held: The judgment is reversed.

563 So.2d 1138 (La.1990), reversed.

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I and II, concluding that the Louisiana statute violates the Due Process Clause because it allows an insanity acquittee to be committed to a mental institution until he is able to demonstrate that he is not dangerous to himself and others, even though he does not suffer from any mental illness. Although Jones, supra, acknowledged that an insanity acquittee could be committed, the Court also held, as a matter of due process, that he is entitled to release when he has recovered his sanity or is no longer dangerous, id., 463 U.S. at 368, i.e., he may be held as long as he is both mentally ill and dangerous, but no longer. Here, since the State does not contend that Foucha was mentally ill at the time of the

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trial court's hearing, the basis for holding him in a psychiatric facility as an insanity acquittee has disappeared, and the State is no longer entitled to hold him on that basis. There are at least three difficulties with the State's attempt to perpetuate his confinement on the basis of his antisocial personality. First, even if his continued confinement were constitutionally permissible, keeping him against his will in a mental institution is improper absent a determination in civil commitment proceedings of current mental illness and dangerousness. Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 492. Due process requires that the nature of commitment bear some reasonable relation to the purpose for which the individual is committed. See, e.g., Jones v. United State, supra, 463 U.S. at 368. Second, if he can no longer be held as an insanity acquittee in a mental hospital, he is entitled to constitutionally adequate procedures to establish the grounds for his confinement. Jackson v. Indiana, 406 U.S. 715. Third, the substantive component of the Due Process Clause bars certain arbitrary, wrongful government actions regardless of the fairness of the procedures used to implement them. Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 126. Although a State may imprison convicted criminals for the purposes of deterrence and retribution, Louisiana has no such interest here, since Foucha was not convicted, and may not be punished. Jones, 463 U.S. at 369. Moreover, although the State may confine a person if it shows by clear and convincing evidence that he is mentally ill and dangerous, id. at 362, Louisiana has not carried that burden here. Furthermore, United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739 -- which held that, in certain narrow circumstances, pretrial detainees who pose a danger to others or the community may be subject to limited confinement -- does not save the state statute. Unlike the sharply focused statutory scheme at issue in Salerno, the Louisiana scheme is not carefully limited. Pp. 75-85.

WHITE, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I and II, in which BLACKMUN, STEVENS, O'CONNOR, and SOUTER, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part III, in which BLACKMUN, STEVENS, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 86. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., joined, post, p. 90. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and SCALIA, J., joined, post, p. 102.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part III.

When a defendant in a criminal case pending in Louisiana is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he is committed to a psychiatric hospital unless he proves that he is not dangerous. This is so whether or not he is then [112 S.Ct. 1782] insane. After commitment, if the acquittee or the superintendent begins release proceedings, a review panel at the hospital makes a written report on the patient's mental condition and whether he can be released without danger to himself or others. If release is recommended, the court must hold a hearing to determine dangerousness; the acquittee has the burden of proving that he is not dangerous. If found to be dangerous, the acquittee may be returned to the mental institution whether or not he is then mentally ill. Petitioner contends that this scheme denies him due process and equal protection because it allows a person acquitted by reason of insanity to be committed to a mental institution until he is able to demonstrate that he is not dangerous to himself and others, even though he does not suffer from any mental illness.

I

Petitioner Terry Foucha was charged by Louisiana authorities with aggravated burglary and illegal discharge of a firearm. Two medical doctors were appointed to conduct a pretrial examination of Foucha. The doctors initially reported, and the trial court initially found, that Foucha lacked mental capacity to proceed, App. 8-9, but, four months later, the trial court found Foucha competent to stand trial. Id. at 45. The doctors reported that Foucha was unable to distinguish

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right from wrong and was insane at the time of the offense.[1] On October 12, 1984, the trial court ruled that Foucha was not guilty by reason of insanity, finding that he

is unable to appreciate the usual, natural and probable consequences of his acts; that he is unable to distinguish right from wrong; that he is a menace to himself and others; and that he was insane at the time of the commission of the above crimes, and that he is presently insane.

Id. at 6. He was committed to the East Feliciana Forensic Facility until such time as doctors recommend that he be released, and until further order of the court. In 1988, the superintendent of Feliciana recommended that Foucha be discharged or released. A three-member panel was convened at the institution to determine Foucha's current condition and whether he could be released or placed on probation without being a danger to others or himself. On March 21, 1988, the panel reported that there had been no evidence of mental illness since admission, and recommended that Foucha be conditionally discharged.[2] The trial judge appointed a two-member sanity commission made up of the same two doctors who had conducted the pretrial examination. Their written report stated that Foucha

is presently in remission from mental illness, [but] [w]e cannot certify that he would not constitute

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a menace to himself or others if released.

Id. at 12. One of the doctors testified at a hearing that, upon commitment, Foucha probably suffered from a drug-induced psychosis, but that he had recovered from that temporary condition; that he evidenced no signs of psychosis or neurosis and was in "good shape" mentally; that he has, however, an antisocial personality, a condition that is not a mental disease, and that is untreatable. The doctor also testified that Foucha had been involved in several altercations at Feliciana and that he, the doctor, would not "feel comfortable in [112 S.Ct. 1783] certifying that [Foucha] would not be a danger to himself or to other people." Id. at 18.

After it was stipulated that the other doctor, if he were present, would give essentially the same testimony, the court ruled that Foucha was dangerous to himself and others, and ordered him returned to the mental institution. The Court of Appeals refused supervisory writs, and the State Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Foucha had not carried the burden placed upon him by statute to prove that he was not dangerous, that our decision in Jones v. United States, 463 U.S. 354 (1983), did not require Foucha's release, and that neither the Due Process Clause nor the Equal Protection Clause was violated by the statutory provision permitting confinement of an insanity acquittee based on dangerousness alone.

Because the case presents an important issue and was decided by the court below in a manner arguably at odds with prior decisions of this Court, we granted certiorari. 499 U.S. 946 (1991).

II

Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418 (1979)...

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