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Brown v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

December 17, 2018

LAURA BROWN, Respondent Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Petitioner Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: December 14, 2018

          Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware C.A. No. 18I-01286

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and TRAYNOR, Justices [1]

          ORDER

          KAREN L. VALIHURA JUSTICE

         After consideration of the appellant's opening brief, the State's answering brief, and the record below, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) The appellant, Laura Brown, has a history of mental health issues. On April 19, 2018, a Dover police officer completed a request for a twenty-four-hour emergency detention of Brown under 16 Del. C. § 5004. The officer reported that Brown had been in a Target store "for over 2 hours, talking to herself and screaming. She stated that everyone is out to get her and wants to kill her. She has been combative with officers and nursing staff. Her action put her and others at risk." A mental health screener evaluated Brown and observed that she was depressed, manic, very angry, delusional, paranoid, and experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations. The screener concluded that Brown's altered mental status placed her at a high risk of harm to self or others, and that she needed further psychiatric evaluation.

         (2) Following her twenty-four-hour emergency detention, Brown was provisionally admitted to Dover Behavioral Health System Hospital. Dr. Khaled Mirza completed a certificate for provisional hospitalization. The certificate stated that Brown was diagnosed with "schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, most recent episode manic." It concluded that Brown was a danger to herself and others because, among other things, she was manic, psychotic, paranoid, and delusional; thought that people were out to get her; and stated that she would defend herself. Dr. Mirza also completed affidavits in support of involuntary inpatient commitment and involuntary outpatient treatment, each of which made similar observations and conclusions.

         (3) On April 25, 2018, the State filed a complaint seeking involuntary inpatient commitment and involuntary outpatient treatment, relying in part on the psychiatrist's affidavits. After an April 27, 2018 probable cause hearing and later a May 4, 2018 "8-day hearing," a Superior Court Commissioner ordered Brown's continued involuntary inpatient commitment and involuntary outpatient treatment. Brown's next hearing was scheduled for July 20, 2018.

         (4) On May 16, 2018, Brown was discharged from involuntary inpatient treatment to begin involuntary outpatient treatment.

         (5) On May 21, 2018, a Dover police officer completed another request for a twenty-four-hour emergency detention of Brown. The officer reported that Brown had refused to leave a store and was making statements that did not make sense. A mental health screener evaluated Brown and observed that she was severely delusional and paranoid, extremely aggressive, and disoriented; had attempted to strike a nurse; and had stated, "I feel like killing someone."

         (6) On May 24, 2018, Dr. Nadeem Afzal completed a certificate for provisional hospitalization, and on May 25, 2018, Dr. Afzal completed affidavits in support of involuntary inpatient commitment and involuntary outpatient treatment. These documents reflect Dr. Afzal's conclusions that Brown was "very psychotic and very manic," paranoid, "hostile, aggressive and even threatening," with "impaired insight and judgment." Dr. Afzal further stated that Brown had been noncompliant with medication and that without medication "her state deteriorates," "she is unlikely to survive in the community," and she posed a threat to herself and others.

         (7) On May 29, 2018, the State filed a complaint seeking involuntary inpatient commitment and involuntary outpatient treatment, relying on the police officer's 24-hour detention form and the psychiatrist's affidavits, among other things. After a May 29, 2018 probable cause hearing and later a June 6, 2018 "8-day hearing," a Superior Court Commissioner ordered Brown's continued involuntary inpatient commitment and involuntary outpatient treatment. Brown's next hearing was scheduled for August 29, 2018.

         (8) On June 12, 2018, Brown was again discharged from involuntary inpatient treatment to begin involuntary outpatient treatment.

         (9) On June 26, 2018, Brown requested that the Superior Court hold a hearing sooner than her then-scheduled August hearing, because she did not want to continue the injectable medications that she was receiving as part of her involuntary outpatient treatment. The Superior Court granted the request, scheduling a hearing for July 20, 2018. Dr. Capiro testified at the July 20 hearing regarding Brown's history and diagnoses and her noncompliance with oral medications. He testified that Brown needed to stay on injectable medications and that outpatient commitment was the least restrictive alternative for Brown to receive the needed treatment. At that hearing, Brown told the Commissioner about the negative effects that the injections had on her, including a "creepy crawly feeling all over me" and a ...


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