FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 17PR-15-225]
HONORABLE GARY COTTRELL, JUDGE.
Lisa-Marie Norris, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Valerie Glover Fortner,
Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge
Mary Bates appeals the order of involuntary admission to
"ASH or like Facility" for no more than forty-five
days, entered by the Crawford County Circuit Court on August
19, 2015. Her sole argument is that there was insufficient
evidence to support the court's finding that appellant
posed a clear and present danger to herself or others. We
agree and reverse and dismiss.
initial matter, the record before us does not indicate that a
stay was obtained to suspend enforcement of the order entered
by the trial court. Thus, the forty-five day treatment would
have ended prior to us hearing this appeal. However, we
decide this case on its merits because this kind of
proceeding will almost always become moot before litigation
can run its course and a decision here might avert future
facts giving rise to this case are as follows: Appellant, who
was a teacher at Central Middle School,  was accused of
causing a disturbance on August 10, 2015. Appellant refused
the principal's request to leave the building. At that
point, Dr. Harold Jeffcoat, Superintendent of the Van Buren
School District, along with assistant superintendent Dr.
Brian Summerhill, were notified and came to the school to
speak with appellant. When Jeffcoat attempted to talk with
appellant, she would not allow him to talk and she would talk
about things that seemed unrelated to why they were there.
Appellant subsequently agreed to meet with them at
Jeffcoat's office in the Administration Building. Frank
Petray, the School Reserve Officer for Central High School,
was contacted and asked to be present at the Administration
Building when appellant arrived. Once appellant arrived, she
was asked if she understood the reason for the meeting, to
which she responded with answers that seemed unrelated to the
questions. Appellant asked Jeffcoat and Summerhill how many
children had to be hurt or how many children had to die. She
stated that Summerhill knew what she was talking about. Just
as before, appellant would not allow Jeffcoat to speak and
when he tried, she would put her hand in his face and tell
him to stop interrupting her. After about five minutes,
appellant got mad, slammed her belongings down, and declared
the meeting over. She also slammed the door as she left.
Petray was advised to do whatever he needed to do about the
situation with appellant. He followed her to the parking lot
and performed field sobriety tests before she was allowed to
leave. When asked if she was okay to drive home, she pointed
toward her house and responded, "I just fucking live
right there." She passed the sobriety tests and drove
away. Jeffcoat asked Petray for a police report of the
incident for documentation, which Petray provided.
August 14, 2015, Petray was called back to the Administration
Building because appellant had been sending group text
messages telling individuals that they needed to do their
jobs. Petray made contact with appellant at her home to
inform her to stop sending the text messages and that she was
no longer allowed on school property. During this meeting,
appellant asked Petray, "How many children have to
die?" or "How many more children have to be
hurt?" Petray filed a petition for involuntary
commitment on August 17, 2015. The court entered an order for
detention, examination, and hearing the same day.
hearing on the petition took place on August 19, 2015. At the
hearing, Petray testified about the events that led to his
contact with appellant on August 10 and 14. He testified that
he did not hear appellant make any specific threats to harm
herself or others. He stated that based on the contact he had
with appellant, he did not believe appellant to be a
significant risk to herself or others. Jeffcoat also
testified about his interactions with appellant on August 10.
He stated that appellant's "tone was very angry,
" and that "there was some aggression on her
part." He said that he believed that appellant was under
some sort of influence. Jeffcoat stated that appellant
"never threatened [him] or anyone in [his] presence with
bodily harm." He also said that appellant was unarmed.
He testified that he did not feel that he was in "mortal
danger" during his interactions with appellant.
moved for the petition to be dismissed at the conclusion of
the State's case. The State responded, "Out of an
abundance of caution, we have heard the testimony several
times that children are going to die. I believe it is
incorrect to dismiss this." The court denied the motion.
testified that she had taught for twenty-six years. She
denied making any threats in regard to children. She stated
that she was in a professional development meeting on August
10 and that they were watching a video on bullying. She said
that the majority of the teachers present were not paying
attention to the video and were leaving the meeting, playing
on their cellphones, and talking to each other. She testified
that she did not believe that bullying was being addressed
properly and that her statement about children getting hurt
was in reference to bullying. She also discussed her
frustration with the way things were being handled at her
school, including the lack of time to prepare between classes
and the many rules they had to follow.
conclusion of the hearing, appellant reiterated that the
petition against her should be dismissed because the State
failed to provide "any evidence that [appellant] is a
threat to anyone. The evidence presented does not justify an
involuntary commitment[.]" The State responded that the
petition "is in regard to the kids. She made multiple
statements regarding danger or death to kids and out of an
abundance of caution, the court should consider this."
The court found that appellant suffered from mental disease
and defect and that she was a danger to herself and others.
As a result, appellant was committed for a period of up to
forty-five days. An order of involuntary admission was
entered on August 19, 2015. Appellant filed a timely notice
of appeal on September 11, 2015. This appeal followed.
Code Annotated section 20-47-207(c) provides:
(1)A person shall be eligible for involuntary admission if he
or she is in such a mental condition as a result of mental
illness, disease, or disorder that he or she poses a clear
and present danger to himself or herself or others.
(2)As used in this subsection, "a clear and present
danger" to himself or herself is established by