This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).


King William Coffee,


Michael O'Keefe,
Commissioner of Human Services,

Filed October 5, 1999
Foley, Judge[*]

Judicial Appeal Panel
File No. 148-A

Allan R. Poncin, Suite 810, Towle Building, 330 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2226 (for appellant)

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Paul M. Landskroener, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for respondent commissioner)

Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Carolyn A. Peterson, Assistant County Attorney, A-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)

Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Foley, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

FOLEY, Judge

This is an appeal from the denial of appellant's petition for transfer or full discharge from his indeterminate commitment as mentally ill and dangerous. We affirm.


In 1990, appellant King William Coffee drove his motor vehicle at a high rate of speed directly toward a group of children, striking a ten-year-old girl who died a week later. The district court found that appellant committed second-degree murder, but was not guilty by reason of mental illness. He was later committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital for an indeterminate period as mentally ill and dangerous. In re Coffee, No. C4-92-1092 (Minn. App. Oct. 6, 1992) (affirming indeterminate commitment), review denied (Minn. Dec. 15, 1992); In re Coffee, No. C4-92-394 (Minn. App. June 16, 1992) (affirming initial commitment), review denied (Minn. Aug. 27, 1992).

Appellant's symptoms improved with treatment and medication. He was transferred to the less restrictive Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center in December 1995, and then provisionally discharged to a community-based group home in May 1997. In November 1997, he sought, in relevant part, transfer to Pennsylvania or full discharge from commitment. The Commissioner of Human Services denied the petition.

Appellant then sought rehearing and reconsideration before the judicial appeal panel, which held a hearing. Dr. Paul Reitman, the court-appointed examiner, diagnosed appellant with paranoid schizophrenia in full remission. Dr. Reitman testified that appellant responds well to the medication, which he takes as prescribed, and has good insight into his mental illness. But both Dr. Reitman and appellant's Hennepin County case manager believed that appellant did not have adequate insight into his chemical dependency and needed to make more progress in other areas to prevent a relapse.

Dr. Reitman explained that while appellant optimally would live with his family as part of his aftercare program, state monitoring would still be necessary to allow rehospitalization immediately if appellant stopped taking his medication. Appellant's mother, who lives in Pennsylvania, testified that he could live with her. She agreed to monitor him to ensure he took his medication as required and to watch for the emergence of psychotic symptoms. But the case manager explained that family members often have a difficult time monitoring and enforcing treatment of their mentally ill relatives. Further, when appellant first raised the possibility of transfer to Pennsylvania in 1994, his case manager contacted the state to determine whether such a transferee would be monitored and to ensure that he continued to take his medication and to receive psychiatric care. He learned that unless the transferee exhibited dangerous behavior, no such monitoring would occur.

The appeal panel denied appellant's request for full discharge or transfer.[1]


In reviewing a decision by a judicial appeal panel, an appellate court must determine whether the evidence as a whole sustains the findings, but it will not reweigh the evidence. Enebak v. Noot, 353 N.W.2d 544, 548 (Minn. 1984). Findings of fact will not be reversed unless clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. This court will not defer to the district court on questions of law. In re Stilinovich, 479 N.W.2d 731, 734 (Minn. App. 1992).

A patient committed as mentally ill and dangerous may not be fully discharged unless

the patient is capable of making an acceptable adjustment to open society, is no longer dangerous to the public, and is no longer in need of inpatient treatment and supervision.

Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 15 (1998). Appellant contends that the evidence shows he meets these standards for full discharge. He cites the remission of his symptoms, his medication compliance, and the remorse and insight he has shown. Consequently, he asserts that continued confinement is unconstitutional because it no longer bears a reasonable relationship to the original reason for his commitment.

Even though appellant's illness is in remission, neither Dr. Reitman nor appellant's case manager supported full discharge. Instead, they recommended that court-ordered monitoring and supervision continue, noting appellant lacks insight into his chemical dependency and needs to make further progress in a number of areas to prevent a relapse. Also of concern was appellant's expressed desire to obtain a driver's license again, particularly because while psychotic he used a car with tragic results. Should appellant begin to experience psychotic symptoms again, swift intervention, which would be available under the provisional discharge but not under full discharge, would be possible. See Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 10 (1998) (discussing grounds and procedure for revocation of provisional discharge).

Based on the testimony presented to the appeal panel, there was clear and convincing evidence to support the decision to deny appellant's request for full discharge. Because his continued commitment bears a reasonable relation to the original reasons for his commitment, including treatment and public safety considerations, it is not unconstitutional. See Lidberg v. Steffen, 514 N.W.2d 779, 783 (Minn. 1994) (holding discharge provisions that bear reasonable relation to purposes of commitment are constitutional).

Appellant also sought transfer to Pennsylvania pursuant to the Interstate Compact on Mental Health. See Minn. Stat. § 245.51 (1998) (containing provisions of compact); 62 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 1121 (West 1996) (same). He contends that the appeal panel erred in deciding that his transfer was not authorized under the compact until he was discharged. The testimony, however, indicated that appellant would not be subject to state monitoring in Pennsylvania, making a transfer tantamount to a discharge, for which appellant does not yet qualify. Further, the compact explicitly does not apply to one

whose institutionalization is due to the commission of an offense for which, in the absence of mental illness or mental deficiency, said person would be subject to incarceration in a penal or correctional institution.

Minn. Stat. § 245.51, art. IX(a); 62 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 1121, art. IX(a). Appellant was institutionalized as mentally ill and dangerous because the district court found he committed second-degree murder, and he would have been subject to incarceration for the crime had he not been found not guilty by reason of mental illness. See Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 1(1) (1990) (providing sentence of not more than 40 years for one found guilty of second-degree murder). We agree with the appeal panel that the compact does not apply.[2]

Appellant also contends that if, as we have determined, the compact does not apply, article IX(a) violates equal protection, due process, and the prohibition against double jeopardy. But he cites no case law and fails to demonstrate that the provision is unconstitutional. See McGuire v. C & L Restaurant, Inc., 346 N.W.2d 605, 611 (Minn. 1984) (providing that party challenging statute must prove its unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt).

Finally, appellant argues that the compact allows Minnesota and Pennsylvania to negotiate an agreement concerning his transfer. See Minn. Stat. § 245.51, art. XI (providing states that are party to compact may enter into supplementary agreement); 62 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 1121, art. XI (same). Because there is no evidence that Minnesota is willing to enter into such an agreement, this argument is irrelevant.


[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Appellant also sought to amend his provisional discharge so that he could live independently; the appeal panel ordered a remand of this issue, and appellant does not challenge this decision on appeal.

[2] The commissioner argues that the appeal panel does not have jurisdiction to consider transfer pursuant to the compact. We do not believe that the commissioner's jurisdictional argument is the proper approach to this issue.