G.W.M. v. The State of Texas--Appeal from County Court of McLennan County

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IN THE

TENTH COURT OF APPEALS

 

No. 10-96-102-CV

 

G.W.M.,

Appellant

v.

 

THE STATE OF TEXAS,

Appellee

 

From the County Court

McLennan County, Texas

Trial Court # MI 960113

 

O P I N I O N

 

In a single point of error, G.W.M. contests the sufficiency of the evidence to support a judgment ordering him temporarily committed to a mental health institution pursuant to Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. 574.034 (Vernon 1992 & Supp. 1996). We affirm.

G.W.M. does not specify in either his point of error or in his argument whether he wishes to contest the legal sufficiency of the evidence, the factual sufficiency of the evidence, or both. In his prayer for relief, he requests that we either render judgment in his favor or, in the alternative, remand for a new trial. Because he requests the appropriate relief for both legal and factual sufficiency points, we conclude that he is making both arguments on appeal. However, because we find the evidence factually sufficient to support the judgment, there is no need to consider his legal sufficiency point.

Section 574.034(a) of the Health & Safety Code provides that a proposed patient may be involuntarily but temporarily confined for mental health treatment only upon proof by clear and convincing evidence that:

(1) the proposed patient is mentally ill; and

(2) as a result of that mental illness the proposed patient:

(A) is likely to cause serious harm to himself;

(B) is likely to cause serious harm to others; or

(C) will, if not treated, continue to suffer severe and abnormal mental, emotional, or physical distress, will continue to experience deterioration of his ability to function independently, and is unable to make a rational and informed decision as to whether or not to submit to treatment.

 

Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. 574.034(a) (Vernon 1992). It is the State's burden to prove the statutory criteria for involuntary commitment. Khateeb v. State, 712 S.W.2d 881, 885 (Tex. App. Houston [1st Dist.] 1986, no writ). To be clear and convincing, the evidence must include expert testimony and, unless waived, evidence of a recent overt act or a continuing pattern of behavior that tends to confirm the likelihood of a violation of one of the three prongs of subsection (a)(2). Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. 574.034(c) (Vernon 1992); Mezick v. State, 920 S.W.2d 427, 430 (Tex. App. Houston [1st Dist.] 1996, no writ). In considering a challenge to the factual sufficiency of the evidence, we review all of the evidence in the record and set aside the judgment only if it is so contrary to the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust. Cain v. Bain, 709 S.W.2d 175, 176 (Tex. 1986); In re King's Estate, 150 Tex. 662, 244 S.W.2d 660, 661 (1951). The clear and convincing standard of proof required at the trial court level to involuntarily commit someone to a mental institution does not alter the standards of review on sufficiency of the evidence claims. See In re J.J., 911 S.W.2d 437, 439 (Tex. App. Texarkana 1995, no writ); Faram v. Gervitz-Faram, 895 S.W.2d. 839, 843 (Tex. App. Fort Worth 1995, no writ); D.O. v. Texas Dep't of Human Serv., 851 S.W.2d 351, 353 (Tex. App. Austin 1993, no writ).

The jury in the instant case concluded that G.W.M. was mentally ill and that the evidence satisfied each of the three prongs of section 574.034(a)(2). G.W.M. makes no argument that the evidence is insufficient to support the finding that he is mentally ill; instead, he restricts his complaint to the three prongs of subsection (a)(2) of section 574.034. We will only consider the sufficiency of the evidence with regard to subsection (a)(2)(C). See Tex. R. App. P. 74(f); see also In re R.S.C., 921 S.W.2d 506, 512-13 (Tex. App. Fort Worth 1996, no writ) (any one of the three prongs under subsection (a)(2) is sufficient to support the commitment order); but see In re J.J., 900 S.W.2d 353, 356-57 (Tex. App. Texarkana 1995, no writ) (commitment order cannot be framed in the disjunctive; trial court must state specifically which of the prongs, whether the first, second, third, or a combination thereof, upon which it relied); In re J.S.C., 812 S.W.2d 92, 96 (Tex. App. San Antonio 1991, no writ) (same).

At the hearing, psychiatrist Sasi Madisetty, M.D., from the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Waco, who had been treating G.W.M. for approximately one month prior to the hearing, testified that G.W.M. presented a danger to himself due to his refusal to take medicine to control his blood pressure. Dr. Madisetty stated that G.W.M. was suffering from a schizoaffective disorder which, in G.W.M.'s case, is demarcated by a continuous elated mood and suspiciousness.

Dr. Madisetty testified further that G.W.M. suffers from a "slightly elevated blood pressure." Apparently, G.W.M.'s blood pressure would not pose a health risk if he would take medication to control it. One of the effects of G.W.M.'s mental illness, however, is that he refuses to take any medication because he suspects that the drugs are being distributed not to help him but to control his mind and body in a harmful manner. // Another effect of G.W.M.'s mental illness, according to Dr. Madisetty, is that his elated mood and suspiciousness produce in him a high degree of emotion that, when experienced by a person with high blood pressure, can cause a heart attack or a stroke. Dr. Madisetty referred to several recent incidents where G.W.M. became inordinately agitated: he was arrested in Dallas County for banging a stranger's vehicle in a bank's parking lot with his cane; when permitted to leave his room and enter the open ward at the hospital, he became extremely disruptive by laughing and joking in an exaggerated manner; and in his cross-examination of Dr. Madisetty at the hearing, G.W.M. was emotional and hostile. G.W.M. admitted that he has refused to take his prescribed blood pressure medicine since being committed to the VA hospital on April 17, 1996, and Dr. Madisetty testified that members of G.W.M.'s family have been unsuccessful in persuading him to take any medication, blood pressure or otherwise. The failure, due to mental illness, to take medication necessary for the health of the person can be considered evidence to support a finding under subsection (a)(2)(C). See Niswanger v. State, 875 S.W.2d 796, 801 (Tex. App. Waco 1994, no writ) (decided under the extended commitment provisions of Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. 574.035 (Vernon 1992 & Supp. 1996)); L.S. v. State, 867 S.W.2d 838, 843 (Tex. App. Austin 1993, no writ) (also decided under Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. 574.035).

Considering all the evidence in the record, we conclude the trial court's commitment order is not so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to make it manifestly wrong or unjust. G.W.M.'s point of error is overruled, and the judgment is affirmed.

BOBBY L. CUMMINGS

Justice

 

Before Chief Justice Davis,

Justice Cummings, and

Justice Vance

(Justice Vance concurring)

Affirmed

Opinion delivered and filed November 6, 1996

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