NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING
MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL
STATE OF FLORIDA,
Case No. 2D11-5722
Opinion filed February 10, 2012.
Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Circuit
Court for Hillsborough County; Manuel
Julianne M. Holt, Public Defender, and
Michael Peacock, Assistant Public
Defender, Tampa, for Petitioner.
Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General,
Tallahassee, and Joseph H. Lee, Assistant
Attorney General, Tampa, for Respondent.
Lewis Gatlin filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging the trial
court's order finding him incompetent to proceed in a criminal case and directing that he
be involuntarily committed to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF).
By order, we treated the petition as a petition for writ of certiorari1 and granted relief.
We write to explain our decision.
Gatlin was charged with robbery. The trial court entered an order for
competency evaluation and psychiatric evaluation return, appointing two mental health
experts to determine whether Gatlin was competent to proceed to trial. At the
competency hearing, the parties stipulated that the reports of the experts be considered
as evidence, and neither party presented any live testimony. The trial court did not call
any witnesses either. In a competency evaluation report, Fred Farzanegan, Ph.D.,
recommended that Gatlin be found incompetent to proceed to trial and that he be sent
to a community-based restoration program for treatment. Dr. Farzanegan opined that
Gatlin could be restored to competency within six months. Debra Goldsmith, Ph.D.,
opined that Gatlin was incompetent to stand trial and that he would benefit from a
refresher course at a local mental health facility. Dr. Goldsmith diagnosed Gatlin as
having a major depressive disorder with psychotic features.
After the competency hearing, the trial court entered an amended order
finding Gatlin incompetent and committing him to DCF. In its findings of fact, the trial
court correctly stated that the experts had determined that Gatlin should not be
involuntarily committed to DCF for treatment. In its conclusions of law, the trial court
found that Gatlin was mentally ill and that he was incompetent to proceed. However,
the trial court also found that "[a]ll available, less restrictive treatment alternatives,
including treatment in community residential facilities or community inpatient or
See Oren v. Judd, 940 So. 2d 1271, 1272 n.1 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006).
outpatient settings, which would offer an opportunity for improvement of [Gatlin's]
condition [had] been judged to be inappropriate." See § 916.13(1)(b), Fla. Stat. (2011).
If there is an issue regarding a defendant's competency, at least two
mental health experts must examine the defendant to determine whether he or she is
competent to proceed to trial. § 916.12(2). In accordance with section 916.13(1):
Every defendant who is charged with a felony and
who is adjudicated incompetent to proceed may be
involuntarily committed for treatment upon a finding by the
court of clear and convincing evidence that:
(a) The defendant has a mental illness and because
of the mental illness:
1. The defendant is manifestly incapable of surviving
alone or with the help of willing and responsible family or
friends, including available alternative services, and, without
treatment, the defendant is likely to suffer from neglect or
refuse to care for herself or himself and such neglect or
refusal poses a real and present threat of substantial harm to
the defendant's well-being; or
2. There is a substantial likelihood that in the near
future the defendant will inflict serious bodily harm on herself
or himself or another person, as evidenced by recent
behavior causing, attempting, or threatening such harm;
(b) All available, less restrictive treatment
alternatives, including treatment in community residential
facilities or community inpatient or outpatient settings,
which would offer an opportunity for improvement of the
defendant's condition have been judged to be inappropriate;
(c) There is a substantial probability that the mental
illness causing the defendant's incompetence will respond to
treatment and the defendant will regain competency to
proceed in the reasonably foreseeable future.
The trial court's finding that less restrictive alternatives to involuntary
commitment, including treatment in community residential facilities or community
inpatient or outpatient settings, were judged to be inappropriate is not supported by
clear and convincing evidence. In fact, both mental health experts recommended that
community-based facilities be used to treat Gatlin's condition.2 Neither expert
determined that involuntary commitment to DCF was necessary. Accordingly, in our
earlier order granting relief, we left undisturbed the trial court's finding that Gatlin is
incompetent to proceed but quashed that portion of the order involuntarily committing
him to DCF. Because Gatlin is incompetent to proceed but his involuntary commitment
to DCF was not authorized under section 916.13(1), we directed the trial court to hold a
hearing to determine the appropriate mental health treatment for Gatlin in accordance
with Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.212(c)(1), (2), and (d).
WHATLEY, KELLY, and WALLACE, JJ., Concur.
The trial court made various findings in accordance with section
916.13(1)(a) that are not supported by clear and convincing evidence. These findings,
however, do not affect our resolution of this case.