CrimProf Blog

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fatal Police Shooting of Mentally Ill Hostage-Taker Did Not Violate ADA

Police officers did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when they fatally shot a mentally ill hostage-taker, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held Feb. 12 (Waller v. Danville, Va., 4th Cir., No. 07-2099, 2/12/09).

The decedent's sister argued that the officers did not face exigent circumstances because they waited two hours before taking action. She also contended that they should have reasonably accommodated his disability by not banging on the door and yelling at the decedent, but instead calling mental health professionals, contacting his family members, or seeking to administer medications to him.

But Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, while stopping short of recognizing an “exigent circumstances” exception to ADA liability, said that the officers' reasonable belief “ ‘that this was a potentially violent hostage situation' … cannot help but inform” the ADA inquiry. He further concluded that the accommodations proposed by the sister were unreasonable, while the steps taken by the officers—including speaking with their supervisors, deploying a hostage negotiator, and attempting to calm the situation by waiting at least two hours before entering the premises—were reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, and thus satisfied any ADA duty of accommodation.

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February 24, 2009 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ABA Releases New Criminal Mental Health Reference Manual

New: Criminal Mental Health and Disability Law, Evidence and Testimony: A Comprehensive Reference Manual for Lawyer, Judges and Criminal Justice Professionals
Pre-order now with a 15% discount (January 2009)
This Comprehensive Reference Manual examines both criminal mental health and disability discrimination law from the points of view of lawyers, judges and other professionals within the criminal justice system. The manual builds on established resources within the ABA, including the Mental & Physical Disability Law Reporter, Mental Disability Law, Evidence and Testimony and Disability Discrimination Law, Evidence and Testimony. It synthesizes the best and most recent information at the ABA on mental health and discrimination law that specifically pertains to criminal justice matters. It also references the ABA's Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards. Regular: $110; $93.50 discounted. 458 pages. View contents. Order today

January 22, 2009 in Evidence, Mentally Ill, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dallas County probation program addresses addictions, bipolar disorder

Kimberly Armstrong says she has run from every drug program she was ever ordered to attend. But when she was sent to one offered by Dallas County probation aimed at treating both her drug addiction and bipolar disorder, she decided to stick with it.

"It seemed like a good program. So I thought I'd give it a chance," said Armstrong, 39, who has been sober and on her prescribed bipolar medications since April 8. She said she's stayed because people working with Dual Diagnosis care about her.

"To be honest, the thought of looking the judge in his face and him being disappointed in me keeps me on track," she said. "I want to be one of the statistics that makes it. I'm doing the best I can."

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January 3, 2009 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New NYPD system alerts officers on the mentally ill

A day after the NYPD used a stun gun on an emotionally disturbed man, Iman Morales, volunteers meticulously cleaned blood from the sidewalk. Morales died when he fell from the second floor ledge in Brooklyn. (Newsday Photo / Ari Mintz / September 25, 2008)

The New York Police Department has a new alert system that lets officers know if they are responding to locations where police have previously been sent to deal with the mentally ill, an initiative sparked by the fatal 2007 shooting of a man who confronted officers with a broken wine bottle.

Under terms of the month-old initiative, a 911 dispatcher handling a "triggering incident" -- anything from a "shots fired" call to an assault in progress -- checks the address to see if it has been the scene of three previous incidents involving an emotionally disturbed person in the preceding 365 days, according to an internal NYPD order.

If so, the dispatcher tells responding officers about the previous incidents and sends to the scene an ambulance and the Emergency Service Unit, whose officers are best-trained to deal with the mentally ill.

A police patrol supervisor, who is usually armed with a portable Taser, is also sent to the scene. [Mark Godsey]

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December 24, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

19 crimes tied to mental health patients

State officials last week opened an investigation into the latest case of an Allegheny County mental health patient connected to a violent crime.

The state Department of Public Welfare doesn't comment on the details of such investigations, but the newest one coincides with the death of 39-year-old Dawn McGuire, whose decomposing body was found Thursday in the Shadyside apartment of David Wayne Alexander.

Police have charged Mr. Alexander, 40, with homicide. He told police that he strangled Ms. McGuire, according to a criminal complaint. The pair had lived together for several months.

Mr. Alexander, who has used a wheelchair since a car accident in North Carolina a decade ago, has a history of mental illness. Last year, he signed a court-ordered plan that compelled him to seek outpatient treatment at Mercy Behavioral Health.

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October 30, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Seattle police unit reaches out to the mentally ill

The former social worker on Ravenna Avenue Northeast used to help the vulnerable. Now, she's the one who needs help.

When she's delusional, the 66-year-old can be violent toward neighbors. In two years, her neighbors have called police a dozen times.

As Seattle Police Officers Scott Enright and Suzie Parton pull up one afternoon in September, they can barely see her home behind a wall of overgrown blackberry bushes. They wonder if she will be calm, confused or even safe.

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October 14, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Are the mentally ill falling through the cracks?

Mentally_ill The Kia Johnson case -- in which a Wilkinsburg woman with mental illness was charged with killing a pregnant teenager and stealing her baby -- drew worldwide news coverage this summer.

That startling homicide, though, was just one of at least 10 serious incidents involving local residents with mental illness that have occurred in Allegheny County neighborhoods in less than a year. Known as sentinel events, they are tracked by the state Department of Public Welfare. Officials here and around the country are struggling with how to prevent such violence or other problems.

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September 8, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses

Law enforcement officers throughout the country

regularly respond to calls for service that involve

people with mental illnesses—often without

needed supports, resources, or specialized training

These encounters can have significant consequences

for the officers, people with mental

illnesses and their loved ones, the community, and

the criminal justice system.


Law enforcement officers throughout the country

regularly respond to calls for service that involve

people with mental illnesses—often without

needed supports, resources, or specialized training.

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September 3, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Inside The Nation's Largest Mental Institution

Prison_200 Morning Edition, August 14, 2008 · The largest mental institution in the country is actually a wing of a county jail. Known as Twin Towers, because of the design, the facility houses 1,400 mentally ill patients in one of its two identical hulking structures in downtown Los Angeles.

On a recent morning, we took a visit to the floor devoted to the "sickest of the sick." As we arrived, a dozen deputies were working to restrain a patient and inject him with an anti-psychotic drug. The entire ordeal was videotaped — to protect the patient as well as the deputies. It was the first hint at the complexities that emerge from creating a mental hospital inside a jail.

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August 14, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mentally ill lose right to self-representation

Filed at 10:19 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that criminal
defendants with a history of mental illness do not always have the
right to represent themselves, even though they have been judged
competent to stand trial.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, say states can give trial judges
discretion to prevent someone from acting as his own lawyer if they
are concerned that the trial could turn into a farce.

The decision comes in the case of an Indiana man who was convicted of
attempted murder and other charges in 2005 for a shooting six years
earlier at an Indianapolis department store.

The case is Indiana v. Edwards, No. 07-208. NACDL filed and amicus
curiae brief in support of neither party arguing that if an
unrepresented defendant is incapable of presenting a reasoned defense
due to mental infirmity, then he is not competent to represent
himself. The opinion is here:
NACDL's amicus brief, authored by Keven P. Martin, Abigail K. Hemani
and Dahlia S. Fetouh, of Goodwin Proctor LLP in Boston, and William F.
Sheehan in Washington, is here:$FILE/IndEd_Amicus.pdf

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June 19, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)