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The People v. Zacharius Everett Kleinsasser

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT (Yolo)


December 19, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
ZACHARIUS EVERETT KLEINSASSER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.

(Super. Ct. No. CRF962750)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie , Acting P. J.

P. v. Kleinsasser

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Defendant Zacharius Everett Kleinsasser appeals from an order extending his mental health commitment. Defendant contends the judgment should be reversed because there was no substantial evidence that he is presently dangerous and unable to control his dangerous behavior. Finding no merit in this argument, we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 1996, defendant was charged with making a threat of injury to a public officer and attempted extortion. He was not apprehended until 2001. In 2003, the trial court found him guilty of both counts and then found him not guilty by reason of insanity. After he exhibited behavior that represented decompensation and ultimately reoffense, the court revoked his outpatient status and committed him to the Napa State Hospital.

In March 2011, the prosecutor filed a petition for a two-year extension of defendant's commitment, which was scheduled to expire in July. On June 7, 2011, a court trial was held to determine whether defendant's commitment should be extended.

At the court trial, the prosecutor called Dr. James Eyerman, a staff psychiatrist at the Napa State Hospital, who had served as defendant's psychiatrist "off and on" since 2008. Dr. Eyerman testified that defendant should remain at Napa State Hospital because he continues to suffer from schizoaffective disorder. Specifically, Dr. Eyerman noted that defendant "has periods where he's grandiose, periods where he's depressed or irritable, and he has continuous delusional ideation, sometimes quite grandiose and hyper-religious, sometimes quite paranoid and of persecutory flavor, and these delusions may be more evident at some times, and otherwise he does not speak about them freely, and he has to sort of -- one must engage in a bit of dialogue with him to elicit these delusions or persecutory ideation. [¶] Other times he's quite florid and he presents himself with complaints about the hospital being corrupt, and he being an FBI agent or Navy Seal and undercover to, you know, basically get the goods on how the hospital is running so it can be destroyed."

Dr. Eyerman concluded that defendant posed a substantial danger of physical harm to others as a result of his mental disease. Dr. Eyerman testified that within the last year defendant had verbally assaulted patients and the staff and even threatened to kill Dr. Eyerman and other staff members. Dr. Eyerman testified that they "had to call for reenforcements before [they] gave him medication." He admitted that defendant's behavior had recently improved with medication. Dr. Eyerman also noted, however, that defendant had "not achieved a degree of behavioral control, which would allow him to progress to an open unit and take responsibility for his behavior and follow medications in a less structured fashion." Specifically, Dr. Eyerman testified that "without supervision [defendant] ha[d] not complied with medications in the past" and he "lacks insight in to his illness" and "maintains a degree of delusional, psychotic thinking [that is] present continuously," but that he was beginning to cooperate by taking his medications more recently and had even been taking his medications voluntarily since late September or early October 2010 (although without protest only since December 2010).

Dr. Eyerman subsequently testified that to consider releasing defendant, he would need to observe him in a structured setting at the hospital for a year to determine whether the medications actually help keep defendant's symptoms in "abeyance." If successful after a year, defendant would be transferred to an "open unit" with less structure and supervision to determine whether he is willing to comply with treatment on his own. Defendant claimed he was placed on the open unit list in April 2011.

The trial court found "beyond a reasonable doubt that [defendant] does suffer from a mental disease, defect or disorder, and that that poses a substantial danger of physical harm to others, and he would have serious difficulty in controlling his dangerous behavior." As a result, the trial court granted the extension for an additional two years, until July 15, 2013.

DISCUSSION

Defendant contends the order extending his mental health commitment was not supported by substantial evidence because Dr. Eyerman did "not offer facts and reasoning" in support of his opinion that defendant poses a danger to others and is unable to control his dangerous behavior. We disagree.

Penal Code section 1026.5, subdivision (b)(1) provides that "[a] person may be committed beyond the term prescribed by subdivision (a) only under the procedure set forth in this subdivision and only if the person has been committed under Section 1026 for a felony and by reason of a mental disease, defect, or disorder represents a substantial danger of physical harm to others." Penal Code section 1026.5 also "require[s] proof that a person under commitment has serious difficulty in controlling dangerous behavior." (People v. Galindo (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 531, 533, 536-537 [applying the holding in In re Howard N. (2005) 35 Cal.4th 117, which interpreted Welf. & Inst. Code, § 1800 et seq. as containing the requirement].)

"'"Whether a defendant 'by reason of a mental disease, defect, or disorder represents a substantial danger of physical harm to others' under section 1026.5 is a question of fact to be resolved with the assistance of expert testimony." [Citation.] "In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a section 1026.5 extension, we apply the test used to review a judgment of conviction; therefore, we review the entire record in the light most favorable to the extension order to determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the requirements of section 1026.5[, subdivision] (b)(1) beyond a reasonable doubt. [Citations.]" [Citation.]' [Citation.] A single psychiatric opinion that an individual is dangerous because of a mental disorder constitutes substantial evidence to support an extension of the defendant's commitment under section 1026.5." (People v. Bowers (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 870, 878-879.) Further, "[w]e will not reweigh the credibility of the evidence adduced at trial." (People v. Beard (1985) 173 Cal.App.3d 1113, 1118.)

Defendant acknowledges that Dr. Eyerman "voiced the required conclusions," but he contends Dr. Eyerman did not offer "facts and reasoning to support them." He asserts that while Dr. Eyerman testified that defendant had verbally and physically threatened hospital staff, Dr. Eyerman "did not describe a single threat" or "provide the details of a single incident." Not so. Dr. Eyerman testified that in August 2010 defendant threatened to kill Dr. Eyerman and other staff members at the hospital, and the threats were "quite believable." The fact that, nearly a year later, Dr. Eyerman did not identify with greater specificity exactly when the threats occurred, who was involved in the incidents, or what defendant said or did does not render his expert opinion based on those threats insubstantial.

Defendant also challenges Dr. Eyerman's opinion based on Dr. Eyerman's acknowledgement that defendant had been taking his medication without protest since at least December 2010 and had not made any threats during that period. In defendant's view, Dr. Eyerman acknowledged that defendant is not dangerous as long as he is on medication, which he currently is, but Dr. Eyerman could not be sure without further observation whether defendant would continue to take his medication in a less structured setting. According to defendant, Dr. Eyerman's desire for further observation "does not constitute facts to support [his opinion of defendant's present dangerousness] or evidence to support the judgment."

In our view, defendant's argument inaccurately characterizes Dr. Eyerman's opinion. The gist of Dr. Eyerman's testimony was that defendant is dangerous because of his mental illness. While defendant had not made any threats for several months, and had been taking his medication without protest for the same period of time, Dr. Eyerman needed further observation of defendant in both a structured and then a less structured setting to see if "the medications actually seem to keep the symptoms in abeyance" and "whether he . . . has insight in to his illness and is willing to comply with treatment . . . because [he] know[s] that there is some psychiatric disorder, medical illness that [he] suffer[s] from and need[s] treatment for." The implication was that if, during this additional time, defendant continues to voluntarily take his medication, does not engage in further threatening behavior, and shows insight into his illness, Dr. Eyerman will then be of the opinion that defendant does not pose a risk of physical harm, but until then defendant does pose such a risk. Contrary to defendant's argument, this reasoning provides adequate support for Dr. Eyerman's opinion that defendant is presently dangerous. It also provides adequate support for the conclusion that defendant has serious difficulties controlling his dangerous behavior. Fairly construed, Dr. Eyerman's opinion was that the threats to kill him or staff members made in August 2010 were evidence of the serious difficulty defendant has controlling his threatening behavior, and despite the fact that "his behavior is substantially better with medication," Dr. Eyerman will not be able to say that defendant can control his behavior without further observation.

For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that Dr. Eyerman's testimony constituted substantial evidence supporting the extension of defendant's commitment.

DISPOSITION

The order of extended commitment is affirmed.

We concur: BUTZ , J. HOCH , J.

20111219

© 1992-2011 VersusLaw Inc.



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