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State v. Coats

Supreme Court of Indiana

February 18, 2014

STATE OF INDIANA, Appellant (Plaintiff below),
v.
WILLIAM COATS, Appellee (Defendant below)

Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49F08-1004-FD-30232. The Honorable Barbara Collins, Judge. On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A02-1206-CR-526.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Andrew A. Kobe, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Darren Bedwell, Ruth Ann Johnson, Indianapolis, Indiana.

David, Justice. Dickson, C.J., Rucker, Massa, and Rush, J.J., concur.

OPINION

Page 529

David, Justice.

Following his arrest for class D felony sexual battery, sixty-seven-year-old William Coats filed a motion for a competency determination. Doctors evaluating Coats diagnosed him with dementia, concluded he was not competent to stand trial, and predicted he could not be restored to competency.

Page 530

Based on the doctors' reports, the trial court found that Coats was not competent to stand trial and that Coats could not be restored to competency. Subsequently, the State moved to commit Coats to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction (" DMHA" ) pursuant to Ind. Code chapter 35-36-3, Indiana's Comprehension to Stand Trial statutes. The trial court denied the State's motion, and this interlocutory appeal ensued. Because we hold that Ind. Code § 35-36-3-1(b) requires trial courts to commit defendants found not competent to stand trial to the DMHA for competency restoration services, we remand this case to the trial court with an order to commit Coats to the DMHA.

Facts and Procedural History

On April 15, 2010, the State charged Coats with class D felony sexual battery. The alleged victim was his granddaughter. Born in 1943, Coats has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

After pleading not guilty at an initial hearing, Coats posted bond. He has since remained released on bond. On January 27, 2011, Coats filed a Motion for Psychiatric Examination to Determine Comprehension to Stand Trial. In order to determine Coats's competency to stand trial, psychiatrist Dr. George Parker and psychologist Dr. Stephanie Callaway met with Coats for approximately one hour. Issuing separate written reports to the trial court, Drs. Parker and Callaway concluded that Coats suffered from dementia, a progressive disease, and as a result was not competent to stand trial. Additionally, Dr. Parker opined that Coats would not be able to be restored to competency, and Dr. Callaway predicted " little likelihood" that Coats would be able to be restored to competency.

Based on the doctors' reports and without a hearing, on February 8, 2012, the trial court found Coats not competent to stand trial. In addition, the trial court found that Coats could not be restored to competency, and that he was not a public safety risk. On February 29, 2012, the State filed a written request to commit Coats to the DMHA pursuant to Ind. Code § 35-36-3-1(b). Filing a motion to dismiss the charge against him, Coats argued that since he cannot be restored to competency, commitment would violate his rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. On June 15, 2002, the trial court denied both the State's and Coats's motions.

The State then requested that the denial of its motion be certified for interlocutory appeal, and the trial court granted the State's request. Before the Court of Appeals, the State contended that the trial court erred by refusing to commit Coats to the DMHA after it found him not competent to stand trial because Ind. Code § 35-36-3-1(b) unambiguously required the trial court to commit the defendant to the DMHA for competency restoration services. In response, Coats maintained that the State may not detain a defendant found not competent to stand trial for competency restoration services once the trial court has determined that the defendant cannot be restored to competency.

In a split opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of the State's motion to commit Coats to the DMHA. State v. Coats, 981 N.E.2d 1273, 1279 (Ind.Ct.App. 2013). Dissenting, Judge Riley reasoned that " the statute does not give the trial court discretion to decline to order commitment even where it concludes that the defendant could never be restored to competency." Id. at 1279-80 (Riley, J., dissenting). The State petitioned this Court for transfer, which we granted, thereby vacating the opinion below. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

Page 531

I. Indiana Code Chapter 35-36-3

One issue is contested here: whether a trial court has discretion to refuse to order commitment to the DMHA where it concludes that a defendant found not competent to stand trial can never be returned to competency. This issue presents a question of statutory interpretation subject to de novo review. Pinnacle Prop. Dev. Grp., LLC v. City of Jeffersonville, 893 N.E.2d 726, 727 (Ind. 2008). " In the interpretation of statutes, our goal is to determine and give effect to the intent of the legislature in promulgating it. Our primary resource for this determination is the language used by the legislature, and thus our interpretation begins with an examination of the statute's language." Porter Dev., LLC v. First Nat. ...


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