Law School Case Brief
Foucha v. Louisiana - 504 U.S. 71, 112 S. Ct. 1780 (1992)
Freedom from bodily restraint has always been at the core of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause, U.S. Const. amend. XIV, from arbitrary governmental action. It is clear that commitment for any purpose constitutes a significant deprivation of liberty that requires due process protection.
Under Louisiana law, a criminal defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity could be committed to a psychiatric hospital. If a hospital review committee thereafter recommended that the acquittee be released, the trial court was required to hold a hearing to determine whether he was dangerous to himself or others. If he was found to be dangerous, he could be returned to the hospital whether or not he was then mentally ill. Pursuant to the 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 a doctor's testimony. The doctor testified that Foucha had recovered from the drug induced psychosis from which he suffered upon commitment and was "in good shape" mentally but that he had an antisocial personality, a condition that was not a mental disease and was untreatable, that he had been involved in several altercations at the institution and because of this disease, the doctor would not feel comfortable in certifying that he would not be a danger to himself or to other people. A state appellate court refused supervisory writs, and the state supreme court affirmed, holding, among other things, that Jones v. United States 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.
Was the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment violated by the statutory provision permitting confinement of an insanity acquittee based on dangerousness alone?
The Supreme Court of the United States held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was violated by the statutory provision permitting confinement of an insanity acquittee based on dangerousness alone. The Court reasoned that Foucha could only be detained as long as he was mentally ill or posed a danger to society. The Court held the prosecution failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that Foucha was a danger to society and, therefore, he was entitled to release.
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