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Evidence sufficient to show dangerousness for Chapter 51 civil commitment

Rock County v. S.J.M., 2016AP255-FT, 5/19/16, District 4 (one-judge opinion; ineligible for publication); case activity

A circuit court involuntarily committed S.J.M. under §51.20(1)(a)1 -2 after finding him mentally ill, a proper subject for treatment, and dangerous.  S.J.M. challenged the “dangerous” determination and, specifically, the finding that he threatened his mother with serious physical harm, which made her reasonably fear violent behavior and serious harm from him.

The court of appeals found the evidence sufficient to support these findings.

¶7 S.J.M. argues that the evidence before the circuit court “makes clear that S.J.M. was troubled and that his relationship with his mother was strained,” but that it does not establish that he threatened to cause his mother physical harm. I conclude, however, that from the reports and testimony of Drs. Bales and Marshall, which included admissions by S.J.M. that he had threatened to kill his mother, the circuit court had sufficient evidence upon which to find that S.J.M. had threatened to cause his mother serious physical harm.

¶8 S.J.M. also argues that the evidence was not sufficient to support the circuit court’s determination that his mother feared violent behavior and serious harm from him, and that those fears were reasonable . . . I would conclude that evidence that S.J.M.’s mother had told authorities that S.J.M.’s behavior had placed her in fear for her safety is sufficient to support the circuit court’s determination that S.J.M.’s mother feared violent behavior or serious harm from S.J.M.

¶9 At the hearing, Dr. Miller testified that individuals with paranoid-type schizophrenia are in general more violent “toward their family … and specifically toward their mother” than the average person. The testimony of Drs. Bales and Miller established that S.J.M. was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and that S.J.M. had threatened his mother on more than one occasion, including threatening to kill her. I conclude that such evidence is sufficient to support the circuit court’s determination that S.J.M.’s mother’s fears were reasonable.

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