556 S.W.2d 563 (Tex. 1977), B-6463, State v. Turner

Docket Nº:B-6463.
Citation:556 S.W.2d 563
Party Name:STATE of Texas, Petitioner, v. Dan TURNER, Respondent.
Case Date:September 27, 1977
Court:Supreme Court of Texas

Page 563

556 S.W.2d 563 (Tex. 1977)

STATE of Texas, Petitioner,


Dan TURNER, Respondent.

No. B-6463.

Supreme Court of Texas.

September 27, 1977

Rehearing Denied Oct. 26, 1977.

Ned Granger, County Atty., Russell J. Bailey, Asst. County Atty., Austin, for petitioner.

Sloan & Wise, Larry W. Wise, Austin, for respondent.

DENTON, Justice.

This is an appeal from an indefinite commitment of the respondent under the provisions of the Texas Mental Health Code. 1 The principal question to be decided is the proper standard of proof required in these proceedings. We hold that preponderance of the evidence is the proper standard.

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Pursuant to jury findings that Dan Turner is a mentally ill person, and that he requires hospitalization in a mental hospital for his own protection or for the protection of others, the county judge has ordered Dan Turner committed to the Austin State Hospital for an indefinite period of time. The court of civil appeals has reversed, holding that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that the State's burden was to prove each special issue by "clear and convincing evidence." The court of civil appeals held the proper standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt." 543 S.W.2d 453. The court of civil appeals conflicts with the prior decision of another court of civil appeals in Powers v. State, 543 S.W.2d 194 (Tex.Civ.App. Waco 1977, writ granted). The Powers court held that the proper standard is "preponderance of the evidence."

In Texas, a person becomes subject to temporary commitment to a mental hospital upon the application of any adult, supported by statements of two physicians that the person is mentally ill and requires observation and/or treatment in a mental hospital. Notice and hearing are required, and a jury is available upon demand. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the person will be ordered confined to a mental hospital for up to ninety days if it is determined that he (1) is mentally ill, and (2) requires observation and/or treatment for his own welfare and protection or the protection of others. The court may refuse to order commitment, otherwise permissible, if he finds that required observation or treatment can be accomplished without commitment to a mental hospital. An order of temporary commitment is appealable to a court of civil appeals. Mental Health Code §§ 31-39d.

Indefinite involuntary hospitalization is reserved only for those persons who have not responded to treatment during temporary hospitalization. Proceedings are initiated by the filing of a petition, which must include, among other things, statements on information and belief that the proposed patient is mentally ill and requires hospitalization for his or her own welfare or for the protection of others, and that he has recently been confined for at least sixty days pursuant to an order of temporary hospitalization. Within fifteen days prior to filing of the petition, the proposed patient must have been examined by a physician who certifies that he or she is mentally ill and requires hospitalization. The physician's certification must accompany the petition. The proposed patient is entitled to counsel and statutory notice of hearing, and a jury trial in the absence of a written waiver in statutory form. The issues of fact to be determined are whether the proposed patient is (1) mentally ill, (2) in need of hospitalization for his own welfare and protection or for the protection of others, and (3) mentally incompetent. The answers to these issues must be based upon competent medical or psychiatric testimony. Affirmative answers to each issue warrant issuance of an order of indefinite commitment to a mental hospital. Mental Health Code §§ 40-57.

The principal issue as the case reaches this court concerns the proper standard of proof in indefinite civil commitment proceedings. As related above, the court of civil appeals has held that due process requires that the criminal law standard, "beyond a reasonable doubt," be applied. It is urged by the State that a lesser standard is not violative of the Due Process clause.

In a criminal proceeding, a person may not constitutionally be imprisoned in the absence of findings that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the prohibited acts were performed. The same is true in a juvenile delinquency proceeding, where an adjudication of delinquency would constitute adjudication of a crime if the defendant were an adult. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970); Santana v. Texas, 397 U.S. 596, 90 S.Ct. 1350, 25 L.Ed.2d 594 (1970), reversing 444 S.W.2d 614 (Tex.1969). The respondent points out the similarities between juvenile delinquency proceedings and civil commitment proceedings; the stigma which attaches to an adjudication of delinquency compares with the stigma concomitant with the finding that one is mentally ill; indefinite confinement

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of a juvenile delinquent for rehabilitation compares with indefinite commitment for treatment. These similarities have prompted several courts to conclude that due process requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt in civil commitment cases. United States ex rel. Stachulak v. Coughlin, 520 F.2d 931 (7th Cir. 1975); In re Ballay, 157 U.S.App.D.C. 59, 482 F.2d 648 (1973); Suzuki v. Quisenberry, 411 F.Supp. 1113 (D.Hawaii 1976); Lessard v. Schmidt, 349 F.Supp. 1078 (E.D.Wis.1972), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 414 U.S. 473, 94 S.Ct. 713, 38 L.Ed.2d 661 (1974); In re Andrews, 334 N.E.2d 15 (Mass.1975). On the other hand, most of the more recent decisions hold that...

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