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NGI Commitments – Standard of Review: Commitment for Institutional Care, § 971.17(3)(a)

State v. Paul A. Wilinski, 2008 WI App 170
For Wilinski: Jefren E. Olsen, SPD, Madison Appellate


¶11      Wisconsin courts have not yet articulated the standard for reviewing a circuit court’s order for commitment under Wis. Stat. § 971.17(3)(a). The State proposes that courts should review such orders under a sufficiency of the evidence standard. Wilinski seems to concede this is the appropriate standard of review. We are also persuaded. As the State points out, our supreme court adopted the sufficiency of the evidence standard of review for orders under Wis. Stat. § 980.08(4), which provides for the supervised release of sexually violent persons. State v. Brown, 2005 WI 29, 279 Wis. 2d 102, 693 N.W.2d 715. Much like § 971.17(3)(a), the statute in Brown required the court to order institutional care if the State proved by clear and convincing evidence it was “substantially probable” the defendant would engage in acts of sexual violence if he was not institutionalized. [2] It also contained a list of factors for the court to consider nearly identical to the one in § 971.17(3)(a).¶12      The sufficiency of the evidence test asks whether a circuit court could reasonably be convinced by evidence it has a right to believe and accept as true. Brown, 279 Wis. 2d 102, ¶40. If the evidence supports multiple reasonable inferences, we will adopt the inference the circuit court adopts. Id. When applying this standard, reviewing courts give “deference to the circuit court’s strength in determining the credibility of witnesses and in evaluating the evidence.” Id., ¶44. We “draw not only on a circuit court’s observational advantage, but also on the circuit court’s reasoning.” Id.

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