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Threats to harm others, when made to third parties, show dangerousness under Sec. 51.20(1)(a)2.b.

Kenosha County v. Steven H., 2014AP1435-FT, District 2, 10/15/14 (1-judge opinion ineligible for publication); case activity

The court of appeals here affirmed an order finding Steven H. “dangerous” under §51.20(1)(a)2.b, which requires, among other things, evidence that people were placed in reasonable fear of Steven’s violent behavior. Under this standard, a court may consider threats voiced to third parties rather than to the potential victims.  R.J. v. Winnebago County, 146 Wis. 2d 516, 521-22, 431 N.W.2d 708 (Ct. App. 1988).

Expert testimony established that Steven suffered from schizophrenia, hallucinations and aggressive behavior, and a doctor and social worker testified that he had threatened to harm or kill people in the facility where he lives. Thus, the court of appeals held:

¶10      Even though we do not have direct testimony from other residents at Steven’s facility, we have competent evidence that Steven targeted particular people who agitate him and who, he feels, deserve retribution. We have testimony from a social worker at the facility of reactions from other residents due to Steven’s behavior. This is evidence in addition to statements Steven has made to the doctor and in letters and speech to Detjens [another social worker]. There is ample evidence of Steven’s dangerousness to support the circuit court finding for commitment.

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