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In re Commitment of J.T.C.

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


March 25, 2008

IN THE MATTER OF THE COMMITMENT OF J.T.C.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, System No. 6399-75.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 4, 2008

Before Judges Coburn and Grall.

J.T.C. appeals from an order continuing his commitment to Ancora Psychiatric Hospital. On March 28, 1975, J.T.C. fired a gun at a group of police officers. As a consequence, two of the officers were killed and one was paralyzed. J.T.C. was indicted and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated assault. At that time, the penalty for murder of a police officer was a sentence of life imprisonment. N.J.S.A. 2A:113-1, -2, -4 (now repealed); see State v. Maguire, 84 N.J. 508, 520-21 n. 12 (1980) (discussing the history of punishment for murder). The jury found J.T.C. not guilty by reason of insanity. Following that verdict, J.T.C. was committed on grounds of mental illness and dangerousness in accordance with State v. Krol, 68 N.J. 236 (1975) and State v. Fields, 77 N.J. 282 (1978). See N.J.S.A. 2C:4-8b(3).

On this periodic review of J.T.C.'s status as a committee following acquittal by reason of insanity, a psychiatrist and a psychologist testified.*fn1 They agreed that J.T.C. continued to suffer from schizophrenia, paranoid type, which was in remission due to medication. Neither believed that J.T.C. could be considered for discharge from Ancora at that time. Due to a violation of Ancora rules, J.T.C. had recently been demoted to a classification that provided greater supervision. In the opinion of the psychiatrist, certain infractions of Ancora rules -- giving a friend a set of keys to the facility and possessing a razor-like instrument -- indicated that his judgment remained impaired. J.T.C.'s explanation for the discovery of a less serious violation -- that the facility's police officers had it in for him -- was, in the psychiatrist's view, indicative of thought patterns inconsistent with an ability to recognize reality. See N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.2(r).

Judge Smith found that J.T.C. was currently mentally ill, dangerous to himself or others, and in need of continued hospitalization. Judge Smith further determined that J.T.C., or members of the Ancora staff, could apply for a court order authorizing J.T.C. to enjoy privileges such as excursions from the facility as he made progress within the facility.

We affirm substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Smith. His findings of fact are supported by the record, and he properly considered the need for relaxation of restraints on J.T.C.'s liberty in gradual stages based upon his demonstrated ability to cope with decreased supervision. See Fields, supra, 77 N.J. 303; R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A). Affirmed.


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