State v. Turner

Decision Date27 September 1977
Docket NumberNo. B-6463,B-6463
Citation556 S.W.2d 563
PartiesSTATE of Texas, Petitioner, v. Dan TURNER, Respondent.
CourtTexas Supreme Court

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.

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 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 distinctions between civil commitment and criminal proceedings are sufficient to permit the somewhat lesser standard of clear and convincing evidence. United States v. Brown, 155 U.S.App.D.C. 402, 478 F.2d 606 (1973); Doremus v. Farrell, 407 F.Supp. 509 (D.Neb.1975); Bartley v. Kremens, 402 F.Supp. 1039 (E.D.Pa.1975); Dower v. Director, Patuxent Institution, 396 F.Supp. 1070 (D.Md.1975); In re Beverly, 342 So.2d 481 (Fla.1977); People v. Sansone, 18 Ill.App.3d 315, 309 N.E.2d 733 (1974); State v. Valdez, 88 N.M. 338, 540 P.2d 818 (1975); Moss v. State, 539 S.W.2d 936 (Tex.Civ.App. Dallas 1976, no writ); In re Ward M., 533 P.2d 896 (Utah 1975); State ex rel. Hawks v. Lazaro, 202 S.E.2d 109 (W.Va.1974). In other cases the civil standard, preponderance of the evidence, has been applied. Tippett v. Maryland, 436 F.2d 1153, 1158-59 (4th Cir. 1971), cert. dism'd sub nom., Murel v. Baltimore City Crim. Ct., 407 U.S. 355, 92 S.Ct. 2091, 32 L.Ed.2d 791 (1972); In re Alexander, 125 U.S.App.D.C. 352, 372 F.2d 925 (1967).

The general rule in civil cases is that the party having the burden of proof must establish the case by a preponderance of the evidence. Nevertheless, in certain types of cases the courts seem inclined to impose a somewhat stricter standard, requiring that proof be clear and satisfactory or clear and convincing. These include charges of fraud and mistake when relied upon to justify reformation; rescission or cancellation of a written estimate; or an action to engraft a parol trust or conditions upon a written instrument. However, it has been held that it is error to instruct the jury that an issue requires a standard of proof greater than that of the preponderance of the evidence. Carl v. Settegast, 237 S.W. 238 (Tex.Comm'n App.1922, holding approved); Western Assur. Co. v. Hillyer-Deutsch-Jarratt Co., 167 S.W. 816 (Tex.Civ.App.1914, writ ref'd).

Some courts in other jurisdictions make a distinction between the standard of clear and convincing evidence and the usual civil standard of the preponderance of the evidence; however, Texas Courts review evidence by but two standards: factual sufficiency and legal sufficiency. The requirement of clear and convincing evidence is merely another method of requiring that a cause of action be supported by factually sufficient evidence. Meadows v. Green, 524 S.W.2d 509 (Tex.1975); Omohundro v. Matthews, 161 Tex. 367, 341 S.W.2d 401 (1960); In Sanders v. Harder, 148 Tex. 593, 227 S.W.2d 206 (1950), the Court said:

"In certain types of cases courts have frequently pointed out that the facts must be established by clear and convincing evidence. That rule, as said in Carl v. Settegast,...

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