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In re J. P.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

December 5, 2018

In the Matter of J. P., a Person Alleged to have Mental Illness.
v.
J . P., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,

          Argued and submitted August 17, 2018

          Douglas County Circuit Court 17CC06384; William A. Marshall, Judge.

          Alexander C. Cambier argued the cause for appellant. Also on the brief was Multnomah Defenders, Inc.

          Matthew A. Maile, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. On the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Cecil A. Reniche-Smith, Assistant Attorney General.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and Shorr, Judge.

         Case Summary: Appellant seeks reversal of a judgment of civil commitment that committed him for a period not to exceed 180 days and an order prohibiting him from purchasing or possessing a firearm. Appellant assigns error to the trial court's determination that, because of a mental disease or defect, he was a danger to others. Held: The trial court erred. The state failed to present clear and convincing evidence that appellant was a danger to others. Random threats that appellant made to kill unnamed people who he believed were following and monitoring him were neither accompanied by an overt act to carry out the threats nor made under circumstances that showed that appellant was highly likely to engage in actual future violence.

          [295 Or.App. 229] SHORR, J.

         Appellant seeks reversal of a judgment committing him for a period not to exceed 180 days, ORS 426.l3O(1)(a)(C), and an order prohibiting him from purchasing or possessing a firearm, ORS 426.l3O(1)(a)(D). Appellant challenges the trial court's conclusion that, because of a mental disease or defect, he was a danger to others. ORS 426.005 (1)(f)(A). Because the state failed to present legally sufficient evidence that appellant was a danger to others, we reverse.

         Because we do not exercise our discretion to review this case de novo, ORAP 5.40(8)(c), we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's disposition to determine whether the evidence, when so viewed, was legally sufficient to support appellant's commitment. State v. S. R. J., 281 Or.App. 741, 743, 386 P.3d 99 (2016); State v. M. A., 276 Or.App. 624, 625, 371 P.3d 495 (2016).

         Appellant was civilly committed at a hearing that took place on October 31, 2017. At the time of the hearing, appellant was a 43-year-old man who had had delusional thoughts for at least five years; however, he had never had any psychiatric treatment or diagnosis before his current commitment. Before the hearing, appellant had been living in Oregon for about one month, primarily staying at a shelter, but also staying intermittently with his mother and his daughter. Before moving to Oregon, appellant had been living in California.

         For about five years, appellant has harbored a delusional belief that he is being monitored by "the mafia." Appellant's delusion regarding the mafia appears to have originated with his neighbors in California, who he believed were engaged in illegal activities and were monitoring him because he had information on them. Appellant has, at various times, believed that he was being monitored through overhead electrical wires, robotic birds, his daughter's dog's collar, his cell phone, and a surgically implanted pin in his neck. Appellant volunteered that he had been arrested previously for domestic violence and for "carrying a pistol." With regard to the domestic-violence arrest, appellant's mother testified that, six or seven years before the hearing, [295 Or.App. 230] appellant and his girlfriend had gotten into "a rather violent argument and it resulted in the girlfriend having a broken nose."

         When appellant moved to Oregon, he believed that the mafia had followed him from California and was continuing to monitor him in Oregon. Appellant sent his mother photographs of a man at a bus stop, who he believed was a member of the mafia. He also sent his mother photos of "random cars" that he took on his trip to Oregon, for the same purpose. On his first night in Oregon, while staying with his daughter, appellant became convinced that roofers working on a house across the street were monitoring him. That night, appellant asked his daughter to put a handgun on top of the refrigerator "in case anything happened." His daughter refused, but she put an unloaded shotgun under appellant's bed to get him to "calm down and go to sleep."

         Appellant's mother got him a new cell phone to "get rid of all of the stuff that might be in that old cell phone," because appellant believed that his phone had been hacked. Appellant then became convinced that his new cell phone was being monitored. The day before appellant was hospitalized, he asked his mother to take him to get a second new cell phone. When she refused, appellant became so agitated that he threw his cell phone against the dashboard of her car and began stomping on it.

         The next day, appellant called his mother from a restaurant and said, "I'm ready to deal with this. I'm ready to get these people. Whatever means necessary, I need to do this today." He also told her, "I don't care how I have to do it. I'll kill them. I'll hang them. I'll do whatever I have to. I need to deal with this." Appellant's mother testified that "[t]he whole thing seemed to be escalating." She became so ...


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