Reiter v. State, No. 00-129.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtVOIGT, Justice.
Citation2001 WY 116,36 P.3d 586
PartiesDavid REITER, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Decision Date06 December 2001
Docket NumberNo. 00-129.

36 P.3d 586
2001 WY 116

David REITER, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff)

No. 00-129.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

December 6, 2001.


36 P.3d 587
Representing Appellant: Sylvia L. Hackl, State Public Defender; Donna D. Domonkos, Appellate Counsel; and Ryan R. Roden, Assistant Appellate Counsel

Representing Appellee: Gay Woodhouse, Attorney General; Paul S. Rehurek, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Georgia L. Tibbetts, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Theodore E. Lauer, Director, Prosecution Assistance Program; and M. Kristeen Hand, Student Intern.

Before LEHMAN, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and VOIGT, JJ.

VOIGT, Justice.

[¶ 1] Appellant, David Reiter, was charged with first-degree arson for starting a fire that destroyed the V.F.W. building in Casper. The district court ultimately entered an order finding that appellant was not criminally responsible for his conduct due to a mental illness, and committed appellant to the Wyoming State Hospital. In April 1999, appellant filed an application to be discharged from the state hospital, which the district court denied. Appellant appeals from the district court's order denying his application for discharge and an order denying

36 P.3d 588
his declaratory judgment motion, essentially arguing that Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-306(f) (LexisNexis 2001) unconstitutionally places the burden of proof on him in such a discharge proceeding. We affirm

ISSUES

[¶ 2] Appellant raises the following issues on appeal:

ISSUE I
Whether the district court utilized an improper burden of proof when it concluded the W.S. § 7-11-306(f) proceeding?
ISSUE II
Whether the burden found within W.S. § 7-11-306(f) is unconstitutional and therefore violative of appellant's due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as well as Article 1 § 6 of the Wyoming Constitution?
ISSUE III
Whether the burden found within W.S. § 7-11-306(f) is unconstitutional and therefore violative of appellant's equal protection guarantees under Article 1 §§ 2, 7, 34 and 36 of the Wyoming Constitution?
ISSUE IV
Whether the burden found within W.S. § 7-11-306(f) is unconstitutional and therefore violative of appellant's equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendments [sic] to the United States Constitution?

The State of Wyoming, as appellee, phrases the issues in substantially the same manner.

FACTS

[¶ 3] On June 28, 1996, the Casper Fire Department responded to a fire at the V.F.W. building in Casper. Appellant was charged with first-degree arson for starting the fire and subsequently entered a not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency plea. Following an evaluation at the state hospital and a competency hearing, the district court found that appellant was incompetent to stand trial, but that appellant's competency might be restored with medication. Appellant remained at the state hospital.

[¶ 4] In December 1996, the parties received a report from the state hospital that appellant had regained his competency to stand trial. On January 14, 1997, the parties appeared before the district court and agreed or jointly recommended that appellant be found not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency. The district court entered an order pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-306(a) finding that appellant was not responsible for the alleged criminal conduct due to a mental illness, and that appellant was mentally ill and presented a substantial danger to himself or others. Appellant was committed to the state hospital pending further review under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-306.

[¶ 5] In April 1998, the state hospital filed an application to discharge appellant pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-306(e).1 After a hearing, the district court denied the application, finding that appellant remained mentally ill and continued to present a substantial risk of danger to himself or others.

[¶ 6] In April 1999, appellant filed an application for discharge pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-306(f) claiming that he no longer presented a substantial risk of danger to himself or others and that the referenced statute was constitutionally infirm. Appellant also filed a Motion for Declaratory Judgment seeking a declaration that the same statute was unconstitutional. The district

36 P.3d 589
court denied the declaratory judgment motion, and after a December 1999, hearing, denied the application for discharge. In denying the discharge application, the district court found that appellant continued to be affected by his mental illness and remained a substantial risk of danger to himself or others

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 7] We recited the applicable standard of review in V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo.1997):

Issues of constitutionality present questions of law. We review questions of law under a de novo standard of review and afford no deference to the district court's determinations on the issues. Anderson v. Bommer, 926 P.2d 959, 961 (Wyo.1996). In reviewing a constitutionally based challenge to a statute, we presume the statute to be constitutional and any doubt in the matter must be resolved in favor of the statute's constitutionality. Thomson v. Wyoming In Stream Flow Committee, 651 P.2d 778, 789-90 (Wyo.1982). [Appellant] bears the burden of proving the statute is unconstitutional. Pfeil v. Amax Coal West, Inc., 908 P.2d 956, 961 (Wyo.1995).

Normally, this burden is "heavy" in that appellant must "`clearly and exactly show the unconstitutionality beyond any reasonable doubt.'" Michael v. Hertzler, 900 P.2d 1144, 1146 (Wyo.1995) (quoting Miller v. City of Laramie, 880 P.2d 594, 597 (Wyo.1994)). However,

"that rule does not apply where a citizen's fundamental constitutional right, such as free speech, is involved. The strong presumptions in favor of constitutionality are inverted, the burden then is on the governmental entity to justify the validity of the [statute], and this Court has a duty to declare legislative enactments invalid if they transgress that constitutional provision."

Michael, 900 P.2d at 1146 (quoting Miller, 880 P.2d at 597).

"This is true in situations involving the right of freedom of expression or thought, or of speech, or association, or of the press, or of religion. Under some authority, the usual presumption in favor of constitutionality is merely weaker where the statute arguably inhibits fundamental rights."

Michael, 900 P.2d at 1146 (quoting Miller, 880 P.2d at 597).

DISCUSSION

WYOMING STATUTES

[¶ 8] The Wyoming legislature has established both criminal and civil processes for committing an individual due to his mental illness. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-305(a) (LexisNexis 2001) allows a criminal defendant to enter a plea of "not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency . . . ." The defendant is presumed to be mentally responsible, and bears the burden of proving by "the greater weight of evidence that, as a result of mental illness or deficiency, he lacked capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law." Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-305(b). If the defendant is successful, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-306(a) and (d) state that the court, after entering a judgment of not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency, may commit the defendant to the state hospital or another facility if, based on the evidence at trial or at a separate hearing, the court finds that the defendant is affected by mental illness or deficiency, presents substantial risk of danger to himself or others, and is not a proper subject for release or supervision—under certain circumstances, the court may discharge the defendant outright, or under supervision. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-306(b) and (c). Individuals committed pursuant to this process are "criminal acquittees."

[¶ 9] Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 25-10-110(g) and (j) (Michie 1997) allow an individual to be involuntarily hospitalized if a court or jury2 finds by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed patient is mentally ill. "Mentally

36 P.3d 590
ill" means a "physical, emotional, mental or behavioral disorder which causes a person to be dangerous to himself or others and which requires treatment[.]" Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 25-10-101(a)(ix) (Michie 1997). Individuals committed pursuant to this process are "civil committees."

[¶ 10] The statutes also provide a procedural mechanism for discharging "criminal acquittees" and "civil committees." For "criminal acquittees," the statute at issue in this appeal provides, in pertinent part:

(f) Ninety (90) days after the order of commitment, any person committed to the designated facility under this section may apply to the district court of the county from which he was committed for an order of discharge upon the grounds that he is no longer affected by mental illness or deficiency, or that he no longer presents a substantial risk of danger to himself or others. The application for discharge shall be accompanied by a report of the head of the facility which shall be prepared and transmitted as provided in subsection (e) of this section. The applicant shall prove by a preponderance of the evidence his fitness for discharge. An application for an order of discharge under this subsection filed within six (6) months of the date of a previous hearing shall be subject to summary disposition by the court.
(g) If the court, after a hearing upon any application for discharge, or application for modification or termination of release on supervision, under subsections (c) through (f) of this section, finds that the person is no longer affected by mental illness or deficiency, or that he no longer presents a substantial risk of danger to himself or others, the court shall order him discharged from custody or from supervision. If the court finds that the person is still affected by a mental illness or deficiency and
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29 practice notes
  • Cathcart v. Meyer, No. 04-32
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 4, 2004
    ...WY 135, ¶ 4, 53 P.3d 1088, 1090 (Wyo. 2002). The question of the constitutionality of a statute is a question of law. Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo. 2001) (quoting V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo. 1997)). Our standard of review in such cases has been ......
  • State v. Dyous, No. 18871.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 28, 2012
    ...not similarly situated ... because of the difference in circumstances giving rise to their [307 Conn. 340]commitment”); Reiter v. State, 36 P.3d 586, 595 (Wyo.2001) (concluding that, because criminal acquittee “has placed his mental illness at issue, proved it by a preponderance of the evid......
  • Fraternal Order of Eagles Sheridan v. State, No. 05-57.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 10, 2006
    ...the burden of proving the statute is unconstitutional. Pfeil v. Amax Coal West, Inc., 908 P.2d 956, 961 (Wyo.1995)." Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo.2001) (quoting V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo.1997)). See also Browning, 2001 WY 93, ¶ 12, 32 P.3d......
  • Hede v. Gilstrap, No. 04-22.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 28, 2005
    ...beyond any reasonable doubt. Cathcart v. Meyer, 2004 WY 49, ¶ 7, 88 P.3d 1050, 1056 (Wyo.2004) (quoting Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 DISCUSSION [¶ 7] We will begin this discussion by noting first that the appellants have not challenged the validity of the adoption, it......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • Cathcart v. Meyer, No. 04-32
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 4, 2004
    ...WY 135, ¶ 4, 53 P.3d 1088, 1090 (Wyo. 2002). The question of the constitutionality of a statute is a question of law. Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo. 2001) (quoting V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo. 1997)). Our standard of review in such cases has been ......
  • State v. Dyous, No. 18871.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 28, 2012
    ...not similarly situated ... because of the difference in circumstances giving rise to their [307 Conn. 340]commitment”); Reiter v. State, 36 P.3d 586, 595 (Wyo.2001) (concluding that, because criminal acquittee “has placed his mental illness at issue, proved it by a preponderance of the evid......
  • Fraternal Order of Eagles Sheridan v. State, No. 05-57.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 10, 2006
    ...the burden of proving the statute is unconstitutional. Pfeil v. Amax Coal West, Inc., 908 P.2d 956, 961 (Wyo.1995)." Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo.2001) (quoting V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo.1997)). See also Browning, 2001 WY 93, ¶ 12, 32 P.3d......
  • Hede v. Gilstrap, No. 04-22.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 28, 2005
    ...beyond any reasonable doubt. Cathcart v. Meyer, 2004 WY 49, ¶ 7, 88 P.3d 1050, 1056 (Wyo.2004) (quoting Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 DISCUSSION [¶ 7] We will begin this discussion by noting first that the appellants have not challenged the validity of the adoption, it......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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