Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U.S. 71, 28 (1992)

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certiorari to the supreme court of louisiana

No. 90-5844. Argued November 4, 1991—Decided May 18, 1992

Under Louisiana law, a criminal defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity may be committed to a psychiatric hospital. If a hospital review committee thereafter recommends that the acquittee be released, the trial court must hold a hearing to determine whether he is dangerous to himself or others. If he is found to be dangerous, he may be returned to the hospital whether or not he is then mentally ill. Pursuant to this statutory scheme, a state court ordered petitioner Foucha, an insanity acquittee, returned to the mental institution to which he had been committed, ruling that he was dangerous on the basis of, inter alia, a doctor's testimony that he had recovered from the drug induced psychosis from which he suffered upon commitment and was "in good shape" mentally; that he had, however, an antisocial personality, a condition that is not a mental disease and is untreatable; that he had been involved in several altercations at the institution; and that, accordingly, the doctor would not "feel comfortable in certifying that he would not be a danger to himself or to other people." The State Court of Appeal refused supervisory writs, and the State Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that Jones v. United States, 463 U. S. 354, did not require Foucha's release and that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was not violated by the statutory provision permitting confinement of an insanity acquittee based on dangerousness alone.

Held: The judgment is reversed.

563 So. 2d 1138, reversed.

Justice White delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I and II, concluding that the Louisiana statute violates the Due Process Clause because it allows an insanity acquittee to be committed to a mental institution until he is able to demonstrate that he is not dangerous to himself and others, even though he does not suffer from any mental illness. Although Jones, supra, acknowledged that an insanity acquittee could be committed, the Court also held that, as a matter of due process, he is entitled to release when he has recovered his sanity or is no longer dangerous, id., at 368, i. e., he may be held as long as he is both mentally ill and dangerous, but no longer. Here, since the State does not contend that Foucha was mentally ill at the time of the


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