Franklin, In re

Decision Date12 May 1972
Docket NumberCr. 15842
Citation496 P.2d 465,7 Cal.3d 126,101 Cal.Rptr. 553
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 496 P.2d 465 In re Robert Guy FRANKLIN On Habeas Corpus. In Bank

Richard S. Buckley, Public Defender, James L. McCormick, Josel S. Peck and Dennis A. Fischer, Deputy Public Defenders, for petitioner.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Edward T. Fogel, Jr., Deputy Atty. Gen., for respondent.

BURKE, Justice.

In this case we are called upon to determine the constitutionality of the procedures (Pen.Code, §§ 1026, 1026a) for the commitment and release of persons who, following trial for a criminal offense, are acquitted by reason of their insanity. We have concluded that these procedures, whereby such persons may be confined in a state hospital for a minimum period of 90 days pending a hearing on the question whether they should be released to society, fulfill the requirements of due process and equal protection of the laws and should be sustained. In particular, we hold that the 90-day prehearing commitment period under section 1026a is reasonably necessary to provide a minimum opportunity for institutional observation and examination regarding the patient's present sanity, and that thereafter the patient is entitled to a full jury hearing on the question whether he has recovered his sanity and is no longer a danger to the health and safety of himself or others.

On May 6, 1971, in the Los Angeles Superior Court, petitioner Franklin was found not guilty by reason of insanity of violating Penal Code section 148.1 (false bomb report), following a trial by the court upon the transcript of the preliminary hearing and other documentary evidence, including two psychiatric reports. 1 The evidence disclosed that petitioner had committed the offense in question on February 14, 1971, by making two calls to telephone operators and announcing that a bomb was set to 'blow up' the Veterans Administration Hospital. Shortly thereafter, petitioner called the Los Angeles Police Department and, according to the officer, stated that 'he was all messed up, that he was the person who had placed the call to the General Telephone Company in Long Beach, faking a bomb threat of the V.A. Hospital.' The officer talked petitioner into coming to the police station, where he admitted making the calls; petitioner did not appear to be intoxicated. After being advised of his rights, petitioner stated that he had not planted a bomb in the hospital, that he had once been a patient there and that 'he only wanted to scare them.'

Petitioner was arrested and driven to the Long Beach Police Department. According to the transporting officer, petitioner told him 'that now, with a clear conscience, he could do what he wanted to do and he stated that he was an ex-Marine, an expert sniper and that he was going to take my life.'

Two psychiatrists examined petitioner. Dr. Deering submitted a two and one-half page report concluding that petitioner, though an 'emotional unstable personality,' was legally sane at the time of the commission of the offense. The report noted, however, that petitioner 'was deeply depressed, intoxicated with alcohol and in a panic state.' According to Dr. Deering, at the time of the offense petitioner did not have the mental capacity to meaningfully and maturely reflect upon the gravity of his contemplated acts, to deliberate, premeditate or harbor malice. Dr. Bailey, in an 11 page report, found petitioner to be in an anxious and depressed state and in 'disharmony with his environment and is unstable.' Dr. Bailey concluded that petitioner was legally insane at the time of the offense, that his conduct constituted a 'call for help on a psychiatric basis,' that he had not yet fully recovered his sanity, 2 that he 'is still a menace to the health and safety of others and to himself,' that he presently understands the nature and purpose of the proceedings against him and is able to cooperate with counsel in his defense, and that he would benefit from care and treatment in a state hospital.

Following trial, the court found petitioner guilty of violating section 148.1, but also found (on the basis of Dr. Bailey's report) that petitioner was insane when the offense was committed. The court further stated that, in view of Dr. Bailey's report, 'there is no basis upon which I can make any finding he (petitioner) has presently recovered his sanity . . ..' Accordingly, the court ordered petitioner remanded to the custody of the sheriff to be delivered to a state hospital for the insane. Petitioner was committed to Atascadero State Hospital, where he presently remains. Petitioner now seeks habeas corpus for his release, challenging the validity of his original commitment.

The statutory procedures for the confinement and release of persons, such as petitioner, who are acquitted of criminal offenses by reasons of insanity are set forth in Penal Code sections 1026 and 1026a. Section 1026 provides in pertinent part, as follows: 'If the verdict or finding be that the defendant was insane at the time the offense was committed, the court Unless it shall appear to the court that the defendant has fully recovered his sanity shall direct that the defendant be confined in the State hospital for the criminal insane, or if there be no such State hospital, then that he be confined in some other State hospital for the insane. If, however, it shall appear to the court that the defendant has fully recovered his sanity such defendant shall be remanded to the custody of the sheriff until his sanity shall have been finally determined in the manner prescribed by law. A defendant committed to a State hospital shall not be released from confinement unless and until the court which committed him, or the superior court of the county in which he is confined, shall, after notice and hearing, find and determine that his sanity has been restored. . . .' (Italics added.)

Section 1026a provides: 'An application for the release of a person who has been committed to a state hospital, as provided in Section 1026, upon the ground that his sanity has been restored, may be made to the superior court of the county in which he is confined or of the county from which he was committed, either by such person or by the superintendent of the hospital in which the said person is confined. No hearing upon such application shall be allowed until the person committed shall have been confined for a period of not less than 90 days from the date of the order of commitment. If the finding of the court be adverse to releasing such person upon his application for release, on the ground that his sanity has not been restored, he shall not be permitted to file a further application until one year has elapsed from the date of hearing upon his last preceding application. In any hearing authorized by this section the burden of proving that his sanity has been restored shall be upon the applicant.' (Italics added.)

Thus, to summarize the commitment and release procedures set forth in sections 1026 and 1026a, unless the trial court finds that the person acquitted by reason of insanity has fully recovered his sanity, that person must be committed to a state hospital for the insane for a minimum period of 90 days prior to any further hearing regarding the restoration of his sanity. Thereafter, a release hearing may be held upon the application of the hospital authorities or the patient himself, with the burden upon the applicant to prove restoration of sanity. Petitioner herein contends that the foregoing procedure is invalid, denying him due process and equal protection of the laws, in that this procedure deprived him of an immediate, pre-commitment jury hearing on the question of his present sanity, with the burden of proof upon the People to establish that he continues to be insane. As we shall explain, however, constitutional principles do not forbid prehearing confinement for a reasonable period of persons such as petitioner for the purpose of immediate institutional observation and examination of their mental condition. The availability, under section 1026a, of a full jury hearing following a 90-day period of institutional observation satisfies the demands of due process, 3 and petitioner's status as a person found, by a preponderance of the evidence, to have been insane when he committed a criminal offense affords a rational basis for treating petitioner differently than other persons sought to be committed to mental institutions in this state.

A recent study indicates that the statutes in 15 states provide for he automatic, mandatory commitment of persons acquitted by reason of insanity, 30 states (including California) provide for such commitment at the discretion of the trial court or following a summary inquiry into the person's present mental condition, and only a 'handful' of states 4 are required by statute to initiate and pursue the general civil commitment procedure in order to commit such persons. (Note, 116 U.Pa.L.Rev. 924, 925, and fns. 1--3.)

It is noteworthy that the framers of the Model Penal Code have recommended an automatic commitment procedure more restrictive than the California system. Under section 4.08, subdivision (1), of the code, one acquitted because of 'mental disease or defect excluding responsibility' is automatically committed to the custody of a commissioner of public health or mental hygiene, to be placed in an appropriate institution for custody, care and treatment. 5 Although the person so committed may apply for his release, 'no such application by a committed person need be considered until he has been confined for a period of not less than (six months) from the date of the order of commitment, and if the determination of the Court be adverse to the application, such person shall not be permitted to file a further application until (one year) had elapsed from the date of any preceding hearing on an...

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