This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of:
Filed November 7, 2000
Ramsey County District Court
File No. P99813
Kathleen K. Rauenhorst, Rauenhorst & Associates, P.A., 520 Rosedale Towers, 1700 West Highway 36, Roseville, MN 55113 (for appellant)
Susan E. Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Stephen P. McLaughlin, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55101-1556 (for respondent Ramsey County)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Appellant challenges his commitment, arguing (1) that the finding that he is mentally ill and dangerous is clearly erroneous because the four experts who testified did not agree on his diagnosis; and (2) that the finding that he is dangerous is clearly erroneous because his actions did not result in serious physical harm. Because we see no clear error in the findings, we affirm.
Appellant Stanley Bradford was charged with third-degree assault after he responded to a request to leave a bar by picking up a pool cue and attacking a fellow patron, breaking two of his ribs and puncturing a lung. At trial, the state introduced Spreigl evidence that on the day before the attack, appellant had assaulted a former girlfriend in front of her two young sons, beating her with his fists, kicking her, and cutting her with a knife. Appellant had an extensive history of involvement with the criminal justice system, and several of his previous encounters had resulted in psychiatric hospitalizations.
A petition to have appellant committed as mentally ill and dangerous was filed after he was declared not guilty of third-degree assault because of mental illness. Following a 60-day treatment and observation period, four experts testified as to his condition. Appellant was found mentally ill and dangerous and committed. He now contends that the findings were clearly erroneous.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal, this court examines the trial court’s compliance with the statute, to see if the commitment is justified by findings based upon evidence at the hearing. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). The record is viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court’s decision, and findings of fact shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. Id. Due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witness. Id. “Where the [trial court’s] findings of fact rest almost entirely on expert testimony, the trial court’s evaluation of credibility is of particular significance.” Id.
Appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the findings that he is mentally ill and dangerous because the four experts who testified did not concur on a diagnosis. But appellant cites no support for the implications that experts’ testimony must concur or that the evidence supporting a finding must be uncontroverted.
None of the experts’ testimony opposes the finding that appellant is mentally ill and dangerous. Hildegard Graber, M.D., testified that although she had changed her diagnosis as to the specific nature of appellant’s disorder, he has a psychotic disorder and presents a clear danger to the safety of others because of his mental illness; there is a substantial likelihood that he “will engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm on another.” She testified that it is not too difficult to predict appellant’s future dangerousness because “there has been a continuous pattern of violent behavior which has intensified during the last year.”
Catherine Carlson, Psy. D., also testified that appellant has a psychotic disorder and presents a clear danger to the safety of others because of his mental illness. She testified further that he is in a partial remission due to his medication but displays symptoms of an antisocial personality disorder, which works together with his psychotic disorder to “defend any perceived threat very aggressively, engage in fights or verbal threats, engage in criminal activities when there seems to be an opportunity.” According to her, appellant has a “number of things that raise the risk of violent reaction or violent behavior” and is “at a substantial risk to engage in future dangerous behavior.”
Karen Bruggemeyer, M.D., testified that there is a substantial likelihood that appellant will inflict serious physical harm on others in the future because his assaultive acts have recently become more violent. She said his records reflect “non-compliance with treatment, both psychiatric and chemical dependency, his repetitive pattern of assaultive behavior, his use of weapons, his lack of insight into his illness and his not believing that he is sick.”
James Jacobson, Ph.D., was chosen by appellant to testify. He offered four different diagnoses of appellant, two for non-serious mental illnesses and two for serious mental illnesses. The last diagnosis, which Jacobson considered the best, was for a non-serious mental illness. Jacobson also testified that he was unsure of his diagnosis.
Thus, while Graber, Carlson and Bruggemeyer all testified that appellant is mentally ill and dangerous, Jacobson did not. This does not justify appellant’s contention that the finding that he is mentally ill and dangerous is unsupported by the evidence.
In the alternative, appellant contends that he is only mentally ill, not dangerous. He relies on In re Kottke, 433 N.W.2d 881 (Minn. 1988) to support this contention. But Kottke is distinguishable: the defendant’s assault in that case was limited to two blows from the fist, and the damage was limited to red marks and a sprained thumb. An expert testified that the defendant “simply struck out in a rather ineffectual way and then immediately retreated and became his usual mild-mannered self.” Id. at 883. The injuries appellant inflicted were far more serious, and three experts concurred that he should be committed as mentally ill and dangerous.