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State For Best Interest and Protection of L.G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

December 18, 2013

THE STATE OF TEXAS, FOR THE BEST INTEREST AND PROTECTION OF L.G.

From the Probate Court No. 1, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court Nos. 2013MH2278 & 2013MH2254 Honorable Polly Jackson Spencer, Judge Presiding.[1]

Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice, Sandee Bryan Marion, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice.

L.G. appeals the trial court's judgment ordering temporary commitment for inpatient mental health services and its order for the administration of psychoactive medication. L.G. argues the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the court's orders. We affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background

L.G. is a thirty-five year old female, who was taken to the hospital by police who responded to a call that L.G. was in a neighbor's yard with a gun. A nurse at the facility filed an application for temporary commitment for mental illness. See Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 574.001 (West 2010). The application was accompanied by a physician's certification of medical examination for mental illness. The court subsequently ordered L.G. held in protective custody, and she was transferred to Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital. At Methodist, L.G. was examined and evaluated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Francisco Vidal. Three days after the transfer, Dr. Vidal filed a certification of medical examination for mental illness and a petition for an order to compel psychoactive medication.

The trial court conducted a hearing on the pending motions at which L.G. and Dr. Vidal testified. The parties stipulated to Dr. Vidal's qualifications as an expert. He testified he had met with L.G. each day since she arrived at Methodist and concluded that she is mentally ill. Based on his personal knowledge, L.G.'s history, and medical records, Dr. Vidal diagnosed L.G. as having schizophrenia, the paranoid type.

Dr. Vidal testified without objection that L.G. was taken to the hospital after the police were called to her residence because L.G. was in her neighbor's yard with a gun "looking for some type of pedophiles." The doctor stated he had tried to discuss with L.G. the events that led to her being taken to the hospital. The first time they spoke about it, L.G. told him an FBI agent had given the gun to her, but in subsequent conversations, L.G. denied the whole event.

Dr. Vidal testified L.G. has delusions that make her very suspicious and guarded, and that she is always trying to protect herself. Dr. Vidal summarized L.G.'s delusions as follows:

[S]omehow her DNA is not of a 35 year old lady, it's an eight-year-old girl. And somehow there are some, as she calls them, mass of pedophiles that are . . . stealing her body parts, stealing her babies from her uterus and harassing her all the time. They were harassing her in the northeast when she lived in New York, and that's why she moved to Texas, but they found her here, and she needs to protect herself from them. . . . She wears a lot of devices that she has designed to protect herself from radiation and electricity that those people have tried to do on her. She has a tinfoil hat with magnets to protect her from that. She has some magnets in different parts of her body to help her hearing, to hear better, to move better, and to protect her from those, as she calls them, . . . pedophiles.

Dr. Vidal testified L.G.'s delusions disconnect her from reality; her life is dedicated to protecting herself from the threats she perceives because of the delusions. He testified he personally witnessed an episode when L.G. started interacting with one of her hallucinations and began crying and screaming. When hospital staff members tried to help her, she became aggressive by hitting and punching them, thinking she was defending herself. L.G. was isolated in her room and she calmed down without the need for emergency medication. When Dr. Vidal tried to discuss the incident with L.G. minutes later, she denied it happened. Dr. Vidal testified the staff reported this sort of aggressive behavior to him on a daily basis since L.G. arrived at the hospital.

Dr. Vidal testified that as a result of L.G.'s mental illness, she is likely to cause serious harm to others. He testified her mental illness is causing her to suffer severe and abnormal mental, emotional, or physical distress and is causing substantial mental or physical deterioration of her ability to function independently. He testified that L.G. is unable to provide for her own safety and activities of daily living because "her mind and her whole day is dominated by her symptoms of psychosis." He observed that she was deteriorating every day, and testified that the longer she remained psychotic and unmedicated, the worse her prognosis will be. He believes that as a result of her mental illness, L.G. is unable to make a rational and informed decision about whether to submit to treatment. He further testified that the hospital was the least restrictive appropriate setting for her at that time, and that his plan was to treat her with appropriate medications to effectively treat the delusions.

L.G. testified that she owns a firearm, but denied she told anybody that the FBI gave it to her. Rather, she testified she bought it after the FBI and Homeland Security told her she needed a gun and a lieutenant told her she could not go anywhere without it. L.G. testified that she was not waving around a gun on the day she was taken to the hospital. She testified that people had been throwing garbage on her property, so she "called the terrorist threats into Homeland Security and FBI." L.G. testified that about seven police cars soon arrived and she realized they now understood the very severe threat she was facing. L.G. told the trial court she was outside her apartment when police arrived and she did not know whether the officers took her gun or put it back in her apartment when they searched it. L.G. gave other testimony that substantiated the delusional thinking summarized by Dr. Vidal. She testified she would not consent to the medications because "giving me these drugs is a capital murder charge."

The trial court found L.G. is mentally ill and ordered her temporarily committed to Methodist Specialty & Transplant Hospital. In its oral findings, the court found that a gun was involved in the precipitating incident and L.G. has demonstrated she poses a danger to the community. He found that L.G. is "operating disconnected" under delusions that control her day-to-day activity and that she is unable to have rational thoughts. She is ...


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