Client Found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity Not Involuntarily Committed to Hospital

I represented a client at trial and he had been found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI). While involuntary psychiatric commitments often occur following a finding of NGRI, he was released after I convinced a superior court judge to deny the Department of Mental Health’s petition to commit him. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 123 Section 16 permits individuals found NGRI to be committed to a locked DMH hospital or to the Bridgewater State Hospital (which, despite its misleading name, is a medium security prison run by the Department of Correction) if that person at the time immediately following the trial has a mental illness and his discharge would create a likelihood of serious harm. Through the testimony of a psychologist who had been working on my client’s case since days after his arrest on the underlying crime, I convinced the judge that my client did not meet the commitment criteria: he did not present a substantial risk of physical harm to himself or to other persons, nor did he present a very substantial risk of physical impairment or injury to himself. In this case, both sides agreed that my client was clinically stable while hospitalized and had struggled with medication compliance and sobriety when at liberty. The disagreement in the courtroom came down to whether the risk of medication noncompliance and substance abuse in the future, based on past behavior, was sufficient to justify commitment. I am delighted that the judge agreed that DMH’s concerns were insufficient to justify commitment.