State v. Anderson, Appeal No. 2020AP819-CR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Citation2021 WI App 27,397 Wis.2d 244,959 N.W.2d 93 (Table)
Docket NumberAppeal No. 2020AP819-CR
Parties STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Wilson P. ANDERSON, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date16 March 2021

397 Wis.2d 244
959 N.W.2d 93 (Table)
2021 WI App 27

STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,

Wilson P. ANDERSON, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal No. 2020AP819-CR

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.

March 16, 2021


¶1 Wilson P. Anderson appeals an order of the trial court for his commitment to a mental health institution due to his incompetency, which included authorization for the involuntary administration of medication. Anderson argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the order for involuntary medication. We disagree, and therefore affirm.


¶2 In March 2020, Anderson was charged with misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct after he attacked S.M.G. while she was walking down Plankinton Avenue in Milwaukee. S.M.G. told police that Anderson, who was a stranger to her, hit her in the head and then began to "yell and scream abusively and profanely" at her and other pedestrians in the area. S.M.G. stated that the attack was "total[ly] random and unprovoked[.]"

¶3 A competency evaluation of Anderson was ordered by the trial court the day after his arrest. The examination was conducted by Dr. Deborah L. Collins, a board-certified forensic psychologist. The exam had to be conducted through the cell door due to Anderson's "level of agitation." In her report to the court, Dr. Collins stated that although Anderson "made efforts to respond" to her questions, his responses were often "slurred, mumbled, and/or otherwise incoherent." He also would abruptly start shouting nonsensical phrases at Dr. Collins during the interview.

¶4 Dr. Collins did not believe that Anderson understood the reason for the interview. After making several attempts at "reasonably sustained rational, reciprocal dialogue"—all of which failed—Dr. Collins terminated the interview.

¶5 Additionally, for purposes of preparing her report, Dr. Collins reviewed the records from the Criminal Justice Facility (CJF), where Anderson was held after his arrest, and where she had conducted her examination of him. Due to concerns relating to his mental health, Anderson was housed in the Special Needs Unit of the CJF. The CJF records indicated that Anderson had been acting in a "strange manner" and had been seen "mumbling incoherently." He was also observed repeatedly hitting himself, as well as "starting straight ahead."

¶6 Dr. Collins also reviewed Anderson's records from the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division (BHD). Those records showed that Anderson had over thirty-five "episodes of care" with various agencies within BHD, beginning in 2011, including at least five admissions to inpatient facilities. As a result of these episodes, he had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. However, he was not taking any medication for that disorder at the time of his arrest.

¶7 Based on all of this information, Dr. Collins agreed with the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Dr. Collins further opined that Anderson was not competent to proceed and participate in the court proceedings relating to the charges against him. However, Dr. Collins noted the "treatable nature" of this condition, and stated that Anderson was likely to become competent with the proper treatment, including psychotropic medications, which could be provided at a mental health facility. Dr. Collins subsequently filed an addendum to her report, noting that Anderson was not competent to make treatment decisions for himself, including decisions relating to medications.

¶8 A competency hearing was conducted in April 2020; Anderson refused to appear. 2 Dr. Collins testified as to the opinions she had expressed in her report. The trial court agreed with Dr. Collins’ assessment that Anderson was not competent to proceed given the evidence of his "incredibly unstable mental condition" at that time, due to his being "wholly unmedicated[.]" The court also accepted her opinion that the involuntary administration of medication to Anderson while he was committed was "substantially likely to render [Anderson] competent to stand trial" within the timeframe contemplated in WIS. STAT. § 971.14(5)(a)1.3 Furthermore, the court found that the involuntary administration of medication was "medically appropriate" and would be in Harrison's best interest.

¶9 Additionally, the court found that ordering involuntary medication for Anderson would "significantly further the government's interest" in prosecuting Anderson for the charges against him, noting the seriousness of the charges despite the fact that they were misdemeanors. Therefore, the court ordered Anderson's commitment to a mental health facility with the involuntary administration of medication. This appeal follows.


¶10 "No person who lacks substantial mental capacity to understand the proceedings or assist in his or her own defense may be tried, convicted or sentenced for the commission of an offense so long as the incapacity endures." WIS. STAT. § 971.13(1). If there is "reason to doubt a defendant's competency to proceed," the trial court—upon finding that there is probable cause that the defendant committed the offenses charged—shall order an examination of the defendant, to be followed by a written report of the exam that is submitted to the court. WIS. STAT. § 971.14(1r) - (3). A hearing must then be held for the court to make a competency determination. Sec. 971.14(4).

¶11 "A competency determination is functionally a factual finding." State v. Smith , 2016 WI 23, ¶26, 367 Wis. 2d 483, 878 N.W.2d 135. Therefore, our review of the trial court's competency determination is under the clearly erroneous standard of review "that is particularized to competency findings." Id. Put another way, our review is "limited to whether that finding is totally unsupported by facts in the record and, therefore, is clearly erroneous." Id. , ¶29.

¶12 In this case, the competency proceedings resulted in the trial court's finding that Anderson was incompetent but likely to become competent "if provided with appropriate treatment" upon being committed to a mental health facility. See WIS. STAT. § 971.14(5)(a)1. Furthermore, the trial court ordered the involuntary administration of medication to Anderson while he was committed. See § 971.14(4)(b).

¶13 Because "individuals have ‘a significant liberty interest in avoiding the unwanted administration of antipsychotic drugs’ " under the Due Process Clause, "[o]nly an essential or overriding state interest can overcome this constitutionally-protected liberty interest." State v. Fitzgerald , 2019 WI 69, ¶13, 387 Wis. 2d 384, 929 N.W.2d 165 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). To ensure this right, the United States Supreme Court in Sell v. United States , 539 U.S. 166 (2003) established a four-factor test to determine whether the involuntary administration of medication is "constitutionally appropriate." Fitzgerald , 387 Wis. 2d 384, ¶13. These factors require findings by the trial court that: (1) important government interests are at stake; (2) involuntary medication will significantly further those interests; (3) involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests; and (4) the administration of the medication is medically appropriate, that is, that it is in "the patient's best medical interest in light of his medical condition." Sell , 539 U.S. at 181.

¶14 The trial court's findings at the competency hearing reflect its consideration and application of the Sell factors to the facts of this case. However, before we review those findings, we address the State's argument that it is unnecessary to reach an analysis of the Sell factors because, under WIS. STAT. § 971.14(2)(f), medication may be involuntarily administered if "the medication or treatment is necessary to prevent physical harm to the defendant or others." In Fitzgerald , currently the only case in Wisconsin where the Sell factors were applied, a concurring opinion pointed out that it is not necessary to "employ the Sell factors" if the trial court orders involuntary medication based on a finding that the defendant is "dangerous to himself or others," pursuant to § 971.14(2)(f). See Fitzgerald , 387 Wis. 2d 384, ¶43 (Roggensack, C.J. and Ziegler, J., concurring). This distinction, however, is not discussed in the majority opinion. See id.

¶15 Furthermore, in making its findings in this case, the...

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