This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of:
Filed September 3, 2002
Hennepin County District Court
File No. PX-91-34305
Ron Thorsett, 7328 Ontario Boulevard, Eden Prairie, MN 55346 (for appellant Ingram)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Theresa Couri, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Parker, Judge.
Friday Ingram appeals his civil commitment as mentally ill and dangerous to the public. Ingram contends that his actions toward another patient and a staff member at the treatment center where he was being treated for his mental illness do not constitute overt acts causing or attempting to cause physical harm to another under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17 (2000). We affirm.
When reviewing a civil commitment, we examine whether the district court complied with the statute. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). “[T]he commitment must be justified by findings based upon evidence at the hearing.” Id. (citation omitted). We view the record in the light most favorable to the district court’s decision and will not set aside its factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Id. Where the district court’s findings rest almost entirely on expert testimony, the district court’s credibility determinations, which are always given due regard, are of particular significance. Id.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17 (2000), provides that one who is mentally ill and dangerous to the public is
a person (a) who is mentally ill; and (b) who as a result of that mental illness presents a clear danger to the safety of others as demonstrated by the facts that (i) the person has engaged in an overt act causing or attempting to cause serious physical harm to another and (ii) there is a substantial likelihood that the person will engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm on another.
Here, Ingram does not dispute that he is mentally ill or that he grabbed scissors from the medication dispensary window at a treatment center and held them to another patient’s neck as he demanded to be released from the center, took the patient to a room and closed the door, continued to hold the scissors to the patient’s neck as he left the room upon a staff member’s demand, released the patient, and slashed at the staff member just as the staff member closed the door to protect himself. Six law enforcement officers responded and subdued Ingram. A short time later, Ingram, who had been transferred to the Minnesota Security Hospital, was verbally aggressive toward one patient and slapped another patient. Subsequently, the Hennepin County Department of Children, Family, and Adult Services petitioned the district court for his civil commitment as mentally ill and dangerous to the public.
Ingram argues that the evidence is insufficient to characterize his behavior, particularly that of the scissors incident, as an overt act causing or attempting to cause serious physical harm to another. Ingram contends that because civil commitment seriously infringes on his liberty, the harm caused by an overt act must be very serious, and that his behavior at the treatment center was not serious enough to constitute an overt act. “Whether evidence is sufficient to prove an overt act is a legal question and is subject to de novo review.” Knops, 536 N.W.2d at 620 (citation omitted).
To be committed as mentally ill and dangerous, a person need not cause mayhem or commit murder. In re Kottke, 433 N.W.2d 881, 884 (Minn. 1988). The overt act can be simply a “dangerous act capable of causing serious physical harm to another,” regardless of the individual’s intent or the outcome of the act. In re Jasmer, 447 N.W.2d 192, 195-96 (Minn. 1989) (emphasis added). No causal connection need be shown between an individual’s mental illness and the overt act that demonstrates dangerousness. In re Welfare of Hofmaster, 434 N.W.2d 279, 282 (Minn. App. 1989).
In Kottke, the Minnesota Supreme Court discussed the serious physical harm required for commitment as mentally ill and dangerous. Kottke, 433 N.W.2d at 884. The court distinguished the case before it from the severe acts described in In re Lufsky, 388 N.W.2d 763 (Minn. App. 1986). Kottke, 433 N.W.2d at 884. Kottke was delusional and unable to completely comprehend the legal proceedings associated with his misdemeanor assault charges that arose after he struck two individuals. Id. at 882. Because Kottke would retreat to his “usual mild-mannered self” after ineffectually striking out, the court agreed that he was not mentally ill and dangerous. Id. at 883-84. The court was particularly persuaded by the contrast between Kottke’s acts and the severity of the acts described in Lufsky, where we determined that Lufsky’s commitment as mentally ill and dangerous was appropriate. Kottke, 433 N.W.2d at 884; Lufsky, 388 N.W.2d at 766. Lufsky attacked his parents, dragged his father out of the house by an electrical cord wrapped around his father’s neck, was given probation for an assault charge on the condition he reside in a care facility, left the facility and threatened to kill his parents, assaulted the son of the care facility’s cook, threatened to assault other residents, wanted to have a shoot-out with the arresting officers, refused to take his medication if released, was not amenable to community treatment, and would not be accepted by a specific hospital. Lufsky, 388 N.W.2d at 764-65.
After Kottke, the supreme court again addressed the “serious physical harm” standard in Jasmer, where the court reinstated the district court judgment that ordered Jasmer to be committed as mentally ill and dangerous. 447 N.W.2d at 194. The triggering event was Jasmer’s conviction of assault with a dangerous weapon for shooting at his neighbor. Id. Jasmer, like Ingram here, had an extensive history of violent behavior. He beat his wife to unconsciousness, was committed, escaped, pulled a loaded gun on a deputy, was arrested for aggravated assault, kicked a neighbor, and was suspected of shooting his neighbor’s pets and shooting at his neighbor. Id.
The district court first considered Ingram’s long history of mental illness that has required his admission to a treatment center or hospital at least once per year for 11 of the past 29 years. Ingram has been admitted due to, in part, his violent behavior, and demonstrated consistent violent behavior while there. He shot at people and assaulted others with his fists, his teeth, a belt, a chair leg, a pool cue, a mop handle, and a shovel. At the time of the scissors incident, he was dually committed to a community-based, residential treatment program and the treatment center where the incident occurred.
The district court then reviewed the evidence and found Ingram was diagnosed with chronic, paranoid schizophrenia which grossly impairs his judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, capacity to reason, and capacity to understand. The district court also found there is no credible evidence to support Ingram’s claim that people are plotting to harm him. Finally, it found that treatment only dilutes Ingram’s response, at times police intervention is required to ensure Ingram complies with his medication requirements, Ingram further behaved inappropriately in May and June 2001, and it appears that the Minnesota Security Hospital is the only facility that will accept him.
The district court finally assessed the credibility of the witnesses before concluding that Ingram tried slashing the staff member, needed to be subdued by six officers, and is mentally ill and dangerous to the public. The court ordered that Ingram be committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital.
Ingram also raises several other issues. He argues that he did not intend to harm anyone. Ingram’s intent is irrelevant because the overt act must only be capable of causing serious physical harm. See Jasmer, 447 N.W.2d at 195. Ingram’s behavior was much more capable of causing serious harm than the behavior discussed in Kottke and is factually analogous to the behavior discussed in Lufsky and Jasmer. Although Ingram did not injure anyone in these most recent incidents, his actions were more serious than ineffectually striking at someone. Ingram also argues that he was not arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a crime. This is not required for a commitment; instead, we examine whether the statutory requisites for civil commitment are met. See Jasmer, 447 N.W.2d at 195 (“acquittal in a criminal proceeding does not foreclose later commitment as mentally ill and dangerous to the public, which need be demonstrated only by clear and convincing evidence”).
The district court complied with the statute and the evidence is sufficient to prove that Ingram caused or attempted to cause serious physical harm to either the patient, the staff member, or both.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.