CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Students in Tulane Law Clinic Win Big Case in LA Supreme Court

Tulane_logoIn an opinion issued yesterday, the Louisiana Supreme Court handed a victory to the Tulane Law Clinic and to mentally ill criminal defendants throughout Louisiana.   Relying on positions briefed and argued by student lawyers, under the direction of CrimProf Pamela R. Metzger, the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down La.C.Cr.P. 648(B)(2), a statute that applies to criminal defendants who (a) are permanently incompetent to stand trial; and, (b) do not pose a danger to themselves or others.  The challenged law placed those defendants on probation for a period of a time that could extend up to the maximum punishment that could have been imposed on a competent defendant who was found guilty of the underlying crime.

The Tulane Criminal Clinic has represented the defendant, Ms. Denson, since her initial arrest. She was quickly adjudged permanently incompent to stand trial, and not dangerous either to herself or others.  Nevertheless, Ms. Denson spent three years on probation and approximately two years in the general population of a women's prison, because there was no room for her in  an appropriate psychiatric facility.  The opinion can be found here.

The next step for Ms. Denson and her student lawyers illustrates the intradisciplinary nature of the work performed in Tulane's legal clinics, work that builds off of the theoretical work of many fine CrimProf scholars.  Students in Tulane's Legislation Clinic are drafting a proposal for legislation that would meet the needs of people like Ms. Denson.  And, the Tulane Civil Clinic is evaluating the viability of a lawsuit challenging the State's practice of using jails to house mentally ill people when the State Forensic Hospital is full.  [Mark Godsey]

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The DWI laws in Louisiana do not address the fact that Alcoholism is an accepted "disability" in the Americans With Disabilities Act and in Disability Determinations. Would like to see the Tulane Law Clinic address the injustices practiced against alcoholics and the injust punishment, without treatment of thousands of repeat offenders. Louisiana MANDATES sentences for repeat offenders (alcoholics) of a 10 to 30 YEAR PRISON sentence. This is disability discrimination at its worst!! Alcoholics sit in Louisiana prisons today who have never injured, never damaged, but have been given long sentences because they are incapacitated and unable to make
a capable decision of whether they are or are not
impaired to drive. Alcoholics who are not treated NEVER learn to make that decision. They can spend 50 years in prison, and WITHOUT treatment will STILL BE ALCOHOLICS when they are released. Louisiana has better things to do with its money than pay for housing these unfortunate, disabled, souls. Tulane Law Clinic, please take up this cause! You will be fighting the Liquor Lobbyists in Baton Rouge, but we have faith that YOU CAN WIN THIS ONE FOR THE MANY alcoholics suffering the stigma of their disease!

Posted by: Paulette Barras | Jan 13, 2005 8:41:36 AM

What about a defendant who was charged with a crime, went before two state doctors who saw him for about ten minutes and determined that he did have problems but was not found to be mentally insane at the time of the commission of the crime and even though the doctors favored the court the judge through out their findings. The judge in question would not let the defendant have his own doctors. Basically the judge swept this under the table. The defence lawyer didn't question the judges order. What constitutional problems do you see here? The defendant in this case is mentally retarded.

Posted by: bob | Oct 22, 2008 5:52:39 PM

In the previous email the defendant had been seeing a psychologist for about a year. We asked for commital but she wouldn't Now he is doing 17 years in prison.

Posted by: bob | Oct 22, 2008 5:55:03 PM

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