|||MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT
|||May 17, 2000
COMMISSIONER OF MENTAL HEALTH AND MENTAL RETARDATION
|||Attorney for plaintiff: Peter Darvin, Esq., (orally) 178 Middel Street,
suite 402 Portland, ME 04101 Attorneys for defendant: Andrew Ketterer, Attorney
General William R. Stokes, Asst. Attorney General (orally) 6 State House
Station Augusta, ME 04333-0006
|||Panel:WATHEN, C.J., and Clifford, Rudman, Dana, Saufley, Alexander, and
|||The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dana, J.
|||Reporter of Decisions
|||Argued: January 5, 2000
|||¶1 Virginia Green appeals from the denial by the Superior Court (Kennebec
County, Atwood, J.) of her petition for release from the Augusta
Mental Health Institute (AMHI)
and from the denial of her motion to alter or amend the court's judgment.
Green was committed to AMHI on July 10, 1997, after she was found to be
not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect for the
killing of her mother. On appeal, Green argues that the allocation of the
burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence to insanity acquittees
in release proceedings violates her right to substantive and procedural
due process, as well as her right to equal protection. She also argues that
the court erred as a matter of law when it applied the statutory criteria
for release and that the court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous.
Because we find that the allocation of the burden of proof passes constitutional
muster and because we find no error in the court's judgment, we affirm.
|||¶2 On November 27, 1996, Virginia Green killed her mother while in a psychotic
and delusional state. She was placed in AMHI in February 1997 pending the
outcome of her trial. In July 1997, she was found not criminally responsible
by reason of insanity and was automatically committed to AMHI pursuant to
15 M.R.S.A. § 103 (Supp. 1999). In October 1997, Green filed a petition
for release to a residential treatment program. A hearing was not held on
her petition, however, until November 1998 because of various delays.
|||¶3 Prior to the hearing, Green filed a trial memorandum challenging the
placement of the burden of proof on her as a petitioner and requested that
the burden be placed on the State to justify her continued commitment. The
court denied her request citing our decision in Taylor v. Commissioner of
Mental Health and Mental Ret., 481 A.2d 139 (Me. 1984), and ruled that the
burden of proof rested with Green to show by clear and convincing evidence
her eligibility for release.
|||¶4 In addition to the testimony of Green herself, the evidence at the
hearing consisted almost exclusively of testimony by experts regarding Green's
mental health and her potential for dangerousness if released to a program
like the one she proposed in her petition for release. It is undisputed
that Green suffers from bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive
illness, and poly-substance abuse, which together are referred to as a dual
diagnosis condition. It is also undisputed that her illness is incurable
and will last a lifetime.
|||¶5 Her treating psychiatrist at AMHI, Dr. Walter Christie, testified that
she will always suffer from mental illness, but that she is currently asymptomatic.
It was Dr. Christie who developed the transition plan that Green proposed
to the court, as well as additional "steps" to the transition
plan that were later provided at the court's request. Dr. Christie also
testified that Green had a pattern of relapses and hospitalizations, indicating
that she had been hospitalized fifteen to twenty times since 1972.
|||¶6 Nevertheless, Dr. Christie opined that Green could safely be returned
to the community without a likelihood of harm to herself or others as long
as the proposed treatment plan was followed strictly. He was confident that
Green could safely make the jump from being restricted to the grounds of
AMHI to a residential treatment program. Dr. Christie observed that the
combination of Green's substance abuse and her bipolar illness precipitated
her mania that eventually evolved in psychosis and delusion. He testified
that the events leading up to the death of her mother represented an extreme
state for Green that could have been avoided with proper treatment and oversight
like that provided for in the plan.
|||¶7 Green testified that in the past she had used drugs and alcohol in
an effort to self-medicate despite her awareness that they precipitated
psychotic and delusional episodes, but that she would never again resort
to those tactics because they had led to the death of her mother. Green
did acknowledge, however, that her illnesses are prone to relapse.
|||¶8 Dr. Prudence Baxter, a forensic psychiatrist, prepared an independent
psychiatric examination of Green at AMHI's request and conducted a general
review of Green's case. She concluded that Green was not an appropriate
candidate for release from the hospital, even in a supervised living situation
like the one proposed. She expressed concerns that much of Green's treatment
at AMHI had been focussed on gaining discharge from the hospital and had
not sufficiently explored why Green's most recent episode of psychosis had
resulted in such an extreme outcome. She was also concerned about Green's
anti-anxiety medication that had highly addictive properties given her diagnosis
of poly-substance abuse. Lastly, she indicated that she had not seen a residential
treatment plan like the one proposed implemented in a forensic setting in
the absence of any data regarding a candidate's responses to more incremental
increases in privileges.
|||¶9 Dr. Ann Bower, the clinical director for the Department of Mental Health,
Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, expressed similar concerns
regarding the absence of demonstrable evidence that Green was ready for
such a reduction in supervision. She indicated that such plans, known as
"out-patient commitment plans," are rare in Maine because the
State lacks an effective enforcement mechanism in the event of a breakdown
in compliance. Dr. Bower also had concerns regarding analgesics that Green
had been prescribed because of their addictive qualities.
|||¶0 Following the testimony, the court issued an order in which it denied
Green's petition for release, but noted that a higher level of privileges
might be appropriate for Green. Green then filed a motion to amend the judgment,
seeking an order granting off-grounds privileges. The State opposed the
motion and submitted an institutional report recommending off-grounds privileges
of a more circumscribed nature. The court denied Green's motion to amend
the judgment and accepted the report's recommendation, approving the increased
privileges it outlined including the more limited off-grounds privileges.
Green then filed a notice of appeal.
|||II. THE BURDEN OF PROOF
|||¶1 If a defendant is determined to be not criminally responsible by reason
of mental disease or defect pursuant to 17-A M.R.S.A. § 39 (Supp. 1999),
the person is automatically committed to the custody of the Commissioner
of Mental Health. See 15 M.R.S.A. § 103 (Supp. 1999). Generally, the State
must carry the burden beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant engaged
in conduct constituting a crime after which the burden shifts to the defendant
to prove lack of criminal responsibility by reason of mental disease or
defect by a preponderance of the evidence.*fn1
See 17-A M.R.S.A. §§ 39 & 40 (1983 & Supp. 1999). The statute governing
release of insanity acquittees, however, does not provide for a standard
of proof, nor does it provide on whom the burden of proof rests. See 15
M.R.S.A. § 104-A (Supp. 1999). As a result, we have been forced to make
that determination in the past.
|||¶2 In State v. Shackford, 262 A.2d 359 (Me. 1970), we determined that
the trial court had correctly placed the burden on the insanity acquittee
to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was qualified for release into
the community in a proceeding on a petition for release. Id. at 365-66.
In 1984, we reconsidered our decision in Shackford and determined that,
while the burden should continue to rest with the insanity acquittee, see
Taylor, 481 A.2d at 144 n.6, the degree of proof required should be clear
and convincing evidence, see id. at 149. Compare 18 U.S.C.A. § 4243(d) (1985
& Supp. 1999) (placing burden on insanity acquittees by clear and convincing
evidence when underlying offense involved serious bodily injury or serious
damage to property). We explicitly elected not to decide, however, the constitutionality
of the required degree of proof, as the parties did not have an opportunity
to brief the issue. Id. at 154. Green now asks us to address, inter alia,
the constitutionality of placing the burden of proof on insanity acquittees
by clear and convincing evidence in proceedings regarding petitions for
release and to reconsider our holding in Taylor.
|||A. Substantive Due Process
|||¶3 Green argues that placing the burden on her to show by clear and convincing
evidence that she is either no longer mentally ill or no longer harbors
a potential for dangerousness violates her right to substantive due process
provided by the Maine and United States Constitutions.*fn2
We conclude that placing such a burden on an insanity acquittee in release
proceedings neither offends common concepts of ordered liberty, nor is such
an arbitrary and wrongful government action that it violates either the
Maine or United States constitutions.
|||The United States Supreme Court has stated:
|||Our established method of substantive-due-process analysis has two primary
features: First, we have regularly observed that the Due Process Clause
specially protects those fundamental rights and liberties which are, objectively,
deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition, and implicit in the
concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would
exist if they were sacrificed. Second, we have required in substantive-
due-process cases a careful description of the asserted fundamental liberty
interest. Our Nation's history, legal traditions, and practices thus provide
the crucial guideposts for responsible decisionmaking that direct and restrain
our exposition of the Due Process Clause. Washington v. Glucksberg, 521
U.S. 702, 720-721 (1997) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
When a state infringes on one of these fundamental rights or liberties,
the infringement must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government
interest. See id. at 721 (citation omitted). Additionally, the Court has
stated, "the Due Process Clause contains a substantive component that
bars certain arbitrary, wrongful government actions regardless of the fairness
of the procedures used to implement them." Foucha v. Louisiana, 504
U.S. 71, 80 (1992) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
|||¶4 Green relies heavily on Foucha for her proposition that the allocation
and degree of proof in a release proceeding violates substantive due process.
However, as the United States Supreme Court has admonished, we first must
have a careful description of the asserted fundamental interest. In Foucha,
an insanity acquittee challenged a Louisiana statute that allowed for the
indefinite commitment of individuals who although dangerous, were no longer
mentally ill. Id. at 73. The Court determined that a statute that allowed
for the indefinite confinement of an individual who the State conceded was
no longer mentally ill simply because he could not prove that he was no
longer a danger to society was the kind of arbitrary and wrongful government
conduct that substantive due process protection guards against. See id.
at 80-83. In other words, individuals who are not mentally ill and who have
not been found guilty of any crime have a fundamental interest in being
free from indefinite confinement by the government and simply showing that
they pose a danger to society is not a constitutionally sufficient justification
for impinging on that fundamental interest. In this case, Green is merely
challenging the allocation and standard of proof in a release proceeding,
not the basis for her confinement.
|||¶5 It is well established that the State may confine someone who is both
mentally ill and who poses a danger to society. See Jones v. United States,
463 U.S. 354, 370 (1983) ("when a criminal defendant establishes by
a preponderance of the evidence that he is not guilty of a crime by reason
of insanity, the Constitution permits the government, on the basis of the
insanity judgment, to confine him to a mental institution until such time
as he has regained his sanity or is no longer a danger to himself or society").
Green does not dispute that she may continue to be confined on that basis,
rather she argues that placing the burden on her in a release proceeding
to prove by clear and convincing evidence that one of these two requirements
is no longer met violates a fundamental liberty interest.
|||¶6 Green cites no authority, and we find none, that stands for the proposition
that once an individual has been properly committed, that individual possesses
a substantive due process right to be free from bearing the burden of proof
in subsequent release proceedings. Again, we stress that Green is not arguing
that her continued confinement is an arbitrary and wrongful governmental
action; as someone who has been adjudged both mentally ill and dangerous,
she does not possess a fundamental right to be free from confinement. Rather,
she merely argues that the allocation of the burden of proof is arbitrary
and wrongful government action. We do not agree, however, that placing the
burden on an insanity acquittee in a release proceeding is somehow repugnant
to our notion of ordered liberty; therefore, doing so does not violate Green's
right to substantive due process.*fn3
|||B. Procedural Due Process
|||¶7 Green also argues that the placement of the burden and degree of proof
in release proceedings does not comport with her right to procedural due
process. The first step in procedural due process analysis is to identify
whether there is an interest to be protected. See Matthews v. Eldridge,
424 U.S. 319, 335 (1976). Courts have generally determined that release
proceedings implicate a liberty interest on the part of insanity acquittees.
See, e.g., United States v. Phelps, 955 F.2d 1258, 1266 (9th Cir. 1992)
(holding that federal statute placing burden on insanity acquittees to prove
eligibility for release did not violate due process), cert. denied, 504
U.S. 989 (1992); United States v. Wallace, 845 F.2d 1471, 1473 (8th Cir.
1988) (also holding statute did not violate procedural due process), cert.
denied, 488 U.S. 845 (1988).
|||¶8 Once a protected interest is established, that interest receives constitutionally
required procedural protection. See Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 492 (1980).
To determine whether a certain procedure comports with due process, courts
look to three factors: the private interest affected, the risk of error
inhering in the procedure, and the government interest in the given procedure.
See Matthews, 424 U.S. at 335. While courts have recognized the liberty
interest at stake for the acquittee, i.e., avoiding continued confinement,
see Wallace, 845 F.2d at 1474, the United States Supreme Court noted in
Jones that insanity acquittees experience a diminished deprivation of liberty
when compared to civil committees because they have already assumed the
social stigma associated with commitment by raising the insanity defense
themselves. Jones, 463 U.S. at 367, n.16.
|||¶9 The Court also noted that, for purposes of initial automatic commitment
of insanity acquittees, the finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the acquittee
committed a crime is a sufficient indication of dangerousness and that an
insanity acquittal supported an inference of continuing mental illness.
See id. at 365-66. The Court noted that this mitigated the risk of error
generally, as compared to civil commitment proceedings, and that it eliminated
altogether the risk that an individual was being confined merely for idiosyncratic
behavior, a legitimate concern in the civil commitment context. See id.
at 367. Furthermore, continuing to place the burden on the acquittee regarding
issues of mental health at release proceedings subsequent to commitment
places the burden on the individual with the best ability to collect and
present evidence on those matters. In addition, although an insanity acquittee
certainly has an interest in avoiding erroneous continuation of confinement,
the acquittee also has an interest in avoiding an erroneous release that
may lead to personal harm and harm to others.
|||¶0 Furthermore, the State clearly has an interest, for reasons of public
safety, in avoiding erroneous release. See Wallace, 845 F.2d at 1474 ("[T]he
government's interest in preventing the premature release of persons who
have already proven their dangerousness to society . . . outweighs the interest
in avoiding continued confinement of an acquittee."). This interest
merits a heightened degree of proof for release. The State also has an interest
in avoiding duplicative hearings in which issues established during the
criminal phase leading up to commitment are relitigated, see Jones, 463
U.S. at 366, and insanity acquittees have already gathered much of the relevant
information by virtue of their carrying the original burden in the criminal
proceedings. Placing the risk of error with the acquittee in release proceedings
does not appear to strike an improper balance among these competing interests.
Cf. Benham v. Ledbetter, 785 F.2d 1480, 1491- 92 (11th Cir. 1986). Therefore,
the placement and the degree of the burden of proof does not violate procedural
|||C. Equal Protection
|||¶1 Green argues that the disparity in the allocation and degree of proof
at release proceedings for civil committees and those for insanity acquittees
violates her right to equal protection guaranteed by the Maine and United
We have noted previously, "[i]f a challenged statute involves neither
a fundamental right nor a suspect class, different treatment accorded to
similarly situated persons need only be rationally related to a legitimate
state interest." See School Admin. Dist. No. 1, 659 A.2d at 857; see
also FCC v. Beach Communications, Inc., 508 U.S. 307, 313 (1993) (noting
that in areas of social policy, if neither a fundamental right nor suspect
class is involved, a classification must be upheld if there is "any
reasonably conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational basis
for the classification").
|||¶2 Allocating the burden of proof to insanity acquittees by clear and
convincing evidence in release proceedings, while not doing so to civil
committees, does not impinge on a fundamental right, nor are insanity acquittees
considered members of a suspect classification, therefore, strict scrutiny
does not apply. Rather, we must determine whether similarly situated individuals
are being treated differently and whether there is a rational basis for
it. See City of Cleburne, Texas v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432,
439 (1985). There is a good argument that insanity acquittees and individuals
civilly committed are not similarly situated for purposes of equal protection
analysis because of the difference in circumstances giving rise to their
commitment, see, e.g., Glatz v. Kort, 807 F.2d 1514, 1522 (10th Cir. 1986);
Hartman v. Summers, 878 F. Supp. 1335, 1346 (D.C. Cal. 1995). As the United
States Supreme Court noted in Jones, there is a "widely and reasonably
held view that insanity acquittees constitute a special class that should
be treated differently . . . ." Jones, 463 U.S. at 370. Even if we
assume, however, that they are similarly situated there is a rational basis
to justify the differing procedures at their respective release proceedings.
|||¶3 Insanity acquittees have previously demonstrated their dangerousness
to the community. The danger posed by civil committees is more speculative.
This distinction does not change once commitment has taken place. As a result,
insanity acquittees pose an increased risk to society once they are released
and this provides a rational basis for the disparity in treatment. Cf. Francis
S. v. Stone, 995 F. Supp. 368, 385 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). Therefore, the release
procedures for insanity acquittees do not violate their right to the equal
protection of the law.
|||¶4 Because the placement and the degree of the burden of proof in release
proceedings do not violate insanity acquittees' rights to due process and
equal protection, we conclude that our ruling in Taylor is constitutionally
sound. Therefore, our decision in that case will remain undisturbed. The
Superior Court properly adhered to Taylor in the hearing on Green's petition
|||III. GREEN'S RELEASE HEARING
|||A. The Governing Statute
|||[¶25] With respect to the release proceedings themselves, Green argues
that the court misinterpreted the statutory requirements for release when
it determined that because she was still diagnosed with a mental illness
and still posed a likelihood of danger to the community, she was not eligible
for release. She argues that the statute requires that an insanity acquittee's
illness be symptomatic in order to continue commitment, and that if the
illness is no longer symptomatic, the statute requires release.
|||[¶26] Statutory interpretation is a question of law and we review such
questions de novo. See Passamaquoddy Water Dist. v. City of Eastport, 1998
ME 94, ¶1, 710 A.2d 897, 899. The statutory provision governing release
and discharge of insanity acquittees provides in relevant part: If, after
hearing, the court finds that the person may be released or discharged without
likelihood that the person will cause injury to that person or others due
to mental disease or mental defect, the court shall order as applicable
. . . [r]elease from the institution, provided that . . . [t]he order for
release may include conditions deemed appropriate by the court . . . . 15
M.R.S.A. § 104-A(1)(A) (Supp. 1999) (emphasis added). As we noted in LaDew
v. Commissioner of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the provisions
of the Criminal Code regarding the insanity defense must be read and applied
as an integrated whole with those of Title 15 regarding the release of insanity
acquittees. See LaDew, 532 A.2d at 1053.
|||[¶27] Because the release provisions provide no definition of "mental
disease or defect," we look to the Criminal Code which provides the
following definition: "'mental disease or defect' means only those
severely abnormal mental conditions that grossly and demonstrably impair
a person's perception or understanding of reality." 17-A M.R.S.A. §
39(2) (Supp. 1999). We stated in LaDew that "to be released under 15
M.R.S.A. § 104-A [an insanity] acquittee must show . . . that the mental
disease or defect by reason of which he was relieved of criminal responsibility
no longer exists, or at least no longer poses a danger to himself or others
if he is released." LaDew, 532 A.2d at 1053; see also Roberts v. Commissioner
of Mental Health and Ret., 562 A.2d 680, 683 (Me. 1989). In other words,
if an insanity acquittee can show (1) that he or she is no longer mentally
ill, cf. Foucha, 504 U.S. at 76, n.4, or (2) that he or she is no longer
a danger, although still mentally ill, a court may order release.
|||[¶28] Although demonstrating that a mental illness is asymptomatic or
that the insanity acquittee is no longer in the same state as existed at
the time of the acquittee's crime may indicate that there is little likelihood
of dangerousness, it does not mean that the mental "disease or defect"
no longer exists. Cf. Parrish v. Colorado, 78 F.3d 1473, 1477 (10th Cir.
1996) ("The crux of the issue, then, is not whether the acquittee must
be ill in the medical sense, but whether his mental state fits a constitutionally
valid legal definition."). Otherwise, an acquittee would be statutorily
entitled to release as soon as his or her condition was brought under control
by medication. That is clearly not what the statutory scheme contemplates.
In fact, we noted in LaDew that the statutory scheme governing the insanity
defense had been tightened in response to a public concern that insanity
acquittees were "too quickly being released and too quickly gaining
complete discharge." LaDew, 532 A.2d at 1053 (citing Report of the
Insanity Defense and Related Statutes and Procedures Study Subcommittee
of the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary 15-16, 18-19 (1986)). Being
asymptomatic is not equivalent to no longer suffering from the mental illness
that served as the basis for acquittal and therefore being asymptomatic
does not automatically entitle an acquittee to release pursuant to the statutory
|||[¶29] The trial court in this case denied Green's request for relief based
on its finding that (1) Green still suffers from mental illness that will
be life-long, although she is currently stable because of her regimen of
medication, and (2) at the present time she could not be released without
the likelihood of danger to herself or others. In other words, the mental
condition that impaired Green's perception of reality when she killed her
mother, i.e., the dual diagnosis of her bipolar and poly-substance abuse
illnesses, still existed, and that condition still created the potential
for danger at the time of the hearing. Thus, the court did not err as a
matter of law by denying Green release based on these factual determinations.
|||B. The Court's Factual Findings
|||[¶30] In Green's last challenge to the court's judgment she argues that
there is insufficient evidence to support the court's findings of fact.
We review findings of fact for clear error and will reverse a finding of
fact only when:
|||(1) there is no competent evidence in the record to support it, or (2)
it is based upon a clear misapprehension by the trial court of the meaning
of the evidence, or (3) the force and effect of the evidence, taken as a
total entity, rationally persuades to a certainty that the finding is so
against the great preponderance of the believable evidence that it does
not represent the truth and right of the case. State v. Landry, 600 A.2d
101, 103 (Me. 1991) (citing Harmon v. Emerson, 425 A.2d 978, 982 (Me. 1981));
see also LaDew, 532 A.2d at 1054 ("we must affirm unless the record
evidence compelled the Superior Court to make a finding in favor of the
party with the burden of proof.").
|||[¶31] We have previously noted, "[w]hether [the insanity acquittee]
suffer[s] from a mental disease or defect is ultimately a legal, as opposed
to a medical, determination to be made by the court." Roberts, 562
A.2d at 683. All of the experts testified that Green suffered from bipolar
and poly- substance abuse disorders that were life-long illnesses. The court
ultimately found that Green was dually-diagnosed and controlled her illnesses
through a strong regimen of medications. Although Green had not suffered
the symptoms of psychosis, delusions, mania or depression for a period of
months, the court was not compelled to find that she no longer suffered
from a mental illness. Compare Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 359 (1997)
("[T]he term 'mental illness' is devoid of any talismanic significance.
Not only do 'psychiatrists disagree widely . . . on what constitutes mental
illness,' but the Court itself has used a variety of expressions to describe
the mental condition of those properly subject to civil confinement.")
|||[¶32] With respect to the likelihood of dangerousness, again the court
had before it evidence that the symptoms of Green's bipolar illness were
controlled by strong medications some of which had addictive properties
and might present problems with respect to her poly-substance abuse disorder.
The testimony of all of the witnesses, including Green herself, indicated
a long history of relapses and hospitalizations, often precipitated by the
abuse of substances, licit and illicit. Several of the witnesses expressed
concern over the lack of data regarding any attempts at a more gradual reintroduction
of Green in the community setting. In other words, there was no precedent
in Green's treatment history subsequent to her killing her mother for establishing
Green's risk of dangerousness off the ground of AMHI. The record evidence
at this stage in Green's treatment did not compel a finding by the court
that Green presented no likelihood of danger to herself and others.*fn5
|||[¶33] Because there is competent evidence in the record supporting the
court's factual findings, we find no error. Furthermore, the court correctly
interpreted the statute governing release. Finally, as discussed above,
our holding in Taylor regarding the burden of proof in release proceedings
does not offend constitutional principles of fairness and justice.
|||The entry is:
|||*fn1 In this
case, Green and the State reached a plea agreement establishing these elements.
the due process protections of the Maine Constitution are coextensive with
those of the United States Constitution, see Fichter v. Board of Envtl.
Protection, 604 A.2d 433, 436 (Me. 1992); Penobscot Area Hous. Dev. Corp.
v. City of Brewer, 434 A.2d 14, 24 n.9 (Me. 1981), all of Green's Maine
due process claims will be analyzed concurrently with her federal due process
|||*fn3 In the
context of her substantive due process challenge to the burden of proof,
Green also argues that because she is asymptomatic, she is no longer "legally
insane" and therefore has a substantive due process right not to bear
the burden of proof at her release proceeding. However, the question of
whether she is still mentally ill as defined by statute is one of the very
questions to be answered at the release proceeding, and if she is no longer
mentally ill as defined by statute, she is legally entitled to release.
See 15 M.R.S.A. § 104-A(1) (Supp. 1999); LaDew v. Commissioner of Mental
Health and Ret., 532 A.2d 1051, 1053 (Me. 1987). Green cannot, however,
assume the outcome of her release proceedings and then use the assumption
as a premise in her argument that she should not have to bear the burden
of proof in those proceedings. Additionally, at least one federal court
in the context of a constitutional challenge to the continued commitment
of an insanity acquittee who was asymptomatic has rejected the analogy between
the individual in Foucha who was indisputably not mentally ill and individuals
who are asymptomatic. See United States v. Jackson, 815 F. Supp. 195, 198-99
(N.D. Tex. 1993) (rejecting argument that confinement cannot constitutionally
continue when acquittee's illness was in remission because of treatment
with medication), aff'd, 19 F.3d 1003 (5th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513
U.S. 891 (1994).
to the due process clauses of the Maine and United States constitutions,
the equal protection clauses found in the state and federal constitutions
offer coextensive protections. See School Admin. Dist. No. 1 v. Commissioner,
Dep't of Educ., 659 A.2d 854, 857 (Me. 1995); Choroszy v. Tso, 647 A.2d
803, 808 (Me. 1994).
|||*fn5 . Green
also argues that the court abdicated its responsibility by not adding additional
conditions to the proposed release plan pursuant to 15 M.R.S.A. § 104-A(1)(A)
to allay its concerns regarding Green's potential for dangerousness. Because,
however, the court determined that Green still suffered from a mental illness
and could not be released, i.e., returned to permanent residency within
the community, without the likelihood of injury to herself or others, release
was not authorized by section 104-A(1), with or without additional conditions
to those proposed by Green. Additionally, the court did approve the modified
release treatment plan pursuant to section 104-A(2) recommended in the institutional
report. This plan does allow for travel by Green off the ground of AMHI
and in the community, but in a more measured way and with greater supervision
than that proposed by Green. Therefore, the court clearly met its statutory
responsibility, as it ultimately adopted a treatment plan that provided
for interaction with the community, but with safeguards it implicitly deemed
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